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Conditions of Acceptable, Effective Prayer


Conditions of Acceptable, Effective Prayer

By C. T. Russell

Pastor New York, Washington and Cleveland Temples and the Brooklyn and London Tabernacles

"If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."-- John 15:7.

A VERY remarkable promise is this text. It is limited to certain people under certain conditions. It does not say that anybody may ask what he will. The class that may so ask are those who abide in Christ. Before any one can abide in Christ, he must come into Christ. No one can be said to abide in Him who has not come into Him as a member of His body, the Church. More and more the Lord's people are learning that a solemn transaction takes place when one becomes a member of Christ. To say, "I have companied with Christian people for several years, and I go to church every Sunday," would not constitute one's being in Christ, nor would simply saying, "I joined this or that denomination when a child," or at any later age. None of these steps would necessarily bring one into Christ.

When we look over into Europe and see present conditions there, we have an illustration of what it is to be merely a church member. We see that in centuries past people got a wrong idea into their minds--that the Church was to convert the world, so as to keep all mankind from going to eternal torment. This error was first held by the Roman Catholic Church, and was largely retained by the Protestants, who later came out from the Catholic Church, and to whom much of her error adhered. It is very difficult to get entirely out of error all at once.

Let us consider the facts. St. Augustine, one of the Church Fathers, was the one who especially advanced the theory that whoever died without having been baptized in water would go to eternal torment. His ideas were generally accepted, and as a result infant baptism was practised. The Bishops had gotten the thought that they had the right to make doctrines and creeds for the Church. Another wrong idea that had crept into the Church was the doctrine that whoever died outside of membership in the Church organization would go to endless torture; but that church members would at death go to Purgatory for a longer or shorter time for purgation --a condition far better than that of a Hell of endless woe. As surely as any one was baptized into the Church and buried in consecrated ground, so surely would he escape Hell and be safe in Purgatory.

Wrong Conceptions are Injurious.

This being the general thought, strenuous efforts were made by all church members to get all of their families and friends into the Church; for they did not care to have their loved ones go to eternal torment. Under the influence of this great error nearly everybody was drawn into the church organization, just as we see it over in Europe to-day. [OV401]

All wish to be right. Nobody desires to be wrong. But in the increasing light of our day we perceive that our forefathers had become sadly confused respecting the true teachings of the Bible. However, we do not blame them; for the Scriptures place the responsibility for the confusion upon the Devil, who introduced "doctrines of demons" during the Dark Ages.--2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Timothy 4:1; Matthew 13:37-41.

We all see what these warring nations that are supposed to be 95 per cent Christian are doing. Each side is jealous of the other. And yet both sides claim to be almost all Christian. The Italians, however, claim to be 100 per cent Christian. Everybody in Italy is a Christian. But judging from the conduct of some of the Italians whom we see here in America, who would know that they are all Christians!

This wrong conception, this telling people that they are Christians when they are not Christians, this telling them that they are in the Church of Christ, when they are not, surely leads to hypocrisy. The churches that have promulgated these wrong theories do not like to tell the people the truth, that they are not in the Church of Christ, that no one can get into the true Church except in the way that our Lord Jesus Himself directed. Indeed, they are all confused. We remember that the Apostle Paul says, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." (Romans 8:9.) Our Lord Jesus declares, "By their fruits ye shall know them." (Matthew 7:20.) Look at the fruits in Great Britain, in Germany, in France, in Italy, in Austria! Do we see the fruits of the Spirit of Christ there?

Christ's Spirit Versus Satan's Spirit.

What are the fruits of the Spirit of Christ? Hear St. Paul: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control." (Galatians 5:22,23.) Hear also St. Peter: "Giving all diligence, add to your faith fortitude, and to fortitude knowledge, and to knowledge self-control, and to self-control patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love." (2 Peter 1:5-8.) We see very little of these fruits in Europe to-day--only in a few of God's true saints.

The Apostle Paul also tells us the characteristics of the opposite spirit. He says, "The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these:...hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, envy, murder," etc. He did not add bomb-throwing, asphyxiation by poisonous gases and other modern devices for killing and mangling our fellow-men; but all this is included with murder and other devilishness. (Galatians 5:19-21.) No savages ever fought more viciously than do these people who are deceived into thinking that they are Christians. They are not Christians at all. If ever we have had that idea, the sooner we get it out of our heads the better.

The Body of Christ a Company.

Our text presupposes that those addressed have come into Christ. The appropriate question is, How may we be sure that we have come into Christ? One might have much knowledge of Present Truth and yet not be a member of the Body of Christ. This Body of Christ is composed of saints, those who are really following Jesus in the narrow way. It is a company, a body, in the same sense that Congress is a body. There are many members in the Body of Congress, all of whom are under a head. So with the Church. The Body of Christ, the Church, is composed of many members, over whom God has appointed a Head.

The head of the Church is our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:22,23.) He came first; and since then His members have been gradually united to Him throughout this Age. The Body of Christ is now almost completed. The Heavenly Father has done the calling and the electing [OV402] of this class. But each individual who is called must make his own calling and election sure. The word Christ means Anointed. Long before the foundation of the world God had purposed The Christ--Jesus the Head and the Church the Body. The Apostle tells us that even our Lord Jesus took not this honor unto himself, but that He was called of God.-- Hebrews 5:4-6.

King David was called of God to an earthly kingship. He was a type of Christ. There was also an earthly priest, Aaron, anointed of God. He was a type of Christ as a sacrificing priest. God has anointed Christ to a still higher Kingship and a still higher priesthood. In His glorified and exalted condition He is "a Priest after the Order of Melchizedek." This Melchizedek was a grand character who lived in Abraham's day. He was king and priest at the same time. Long, long ago, God appointed Jesus to be the Head of the Priesthood that was typified by Melchizedek--a priest upon His Throne.--Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:11-17.

When Jesus presented Himself in consecration to God at Jordan, and was there begotten of the Holy Spirit, it was for Him to make His calling and election sure to the Headship of that Priesthood. He said, "I delight to do Thy will, O my God!" He gave His life to the doing of the Father's will. He finished his course grandly, faithfully. The Apostle, after telling us of our Lord's faithfulness even unto the death of the cross, says, "Wherefore, God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name that is above every name." (Philippians 2:8-11.) Our Lord is now the great Prophet, Priest and King after the Order of Melchizedek.

Rigid Conditions of Membership.

According to the Master's own statement, it is necessary that He be found faithful; otherwise He would have forfeited His life. Moreover, He was to be the Head of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. Of the Christ Body, the Apostle says that God, who foreknew Jesus, foreknew the Church also. He who foreknew Jesus as His Anointed, foreknew that there would be a body of a limited number of members anointed in Him. That number is given in Revelation as 144,000. This we believe to be a literal number.

Each one of this class has been drawn of the Father through the Truth. God has called them in the sense that He has sent forth His message speaking peace through Jesus Christ. If we have heard this message and have responded to it, this constitutes our call. Nobody has been forced. As that message of Truth has come, some have been greatly attracted, others have been slightly attracted, and others have not been attracted at all. For 1900 years God has been passing the Magnet of Truth up and down the earth, to find that particular class which has been drawn and held by the Truth. Just as soon as that work is completed, another work will be inaugurated.

The Lord permits the storms of life to blow upon this class which now responds to God's message. If these experiences blow any individual of this class off from the magnet, he is not of the kind for whom God is looking. He is looking for those who will stick to the truth Despite any pressure that may be brought against them. He permits trials and difficulties for the developing and proving of those who have responded to the call. These testings will blow off all who do not love the Lord and His service above all things else. He purposes to separate those who are of this true character from all others. He seeks those who are loyal of heart, and only those.

God Himself is the one who has the attraction. It is not that we first loved Him, but that He first loved us. (1 John 4:19.) It is the love of God, the love of Christ, that binds us to this magnet. God's wonderful wisdom, love, mercy and power have indeed been a magnet to our souls. The more we know Him, the more we are attracted to Him. There is something [OV403] about the divine character that is so wonderful that nothing else can compare with it. We are glad to leave all things else for His sake.

New Creatures in Christ.

We hear God's message, speaking peace through Christ, telling us that we may have forgiveness of sins, telling us that God is now selecting a special class of people from the world for the purpose of blessing all the families of the earth. This is the message that reaches our hearts. Then we take the Apostle's advice, and present our body a living sacrifice, our reasonable service. (Romans 12:1.) No one has come into the family of God who has not done this. No one has become a member of the Church of Christ until he has taken this step.

Our Lord Jesus thus presented Himself to God. He said, "I came not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me." In one respect, however, there was a difference in His case. He was holy, perfect; therefore He needed no advocate with the Father. But the members of His body need the imputation of His merit to cover the blemishes which they have by nature. His merit is like a covering robe. So we have an advocate with the Father, and it is His advocacy which makes us acceptable to God. Thus we become united to Christ as joint sacrificers with Himself.

As we are received, God gives us the begetting of the Holy Spirit. This constitutes us New Creatures. Just as an earthly begetting starts an earthly being, so this spirit begetting starts us as spirit beings. Thenceforth, although the flesh is of the human nature --a child of Adam--the new creature is the germ of a spirit being, begotten in the fleshly body. This new nature is to grow and develop until finally it is brought to the birth, in the First Resurrection.

God's Will Their Delight.

It is not that our flesh is different or that our brains are different from what they were before; but that with this new mind and this new will our purposes and our aspirations are entirely different. We are to be members of the body of Christ, and are to follow the will of our Head in every particular. And so during all the days of our life thenceforth, we should be thinking, "What is the Lord's will concerning me?"

Those who become New Creatures in Christ are no longer to follow their own wills. Whether they eat or drink, or whatsoever they do, they are to do all to the glory of God. The New Creature is to be guided by the will of the Lord and not by his own inclinations. But he is not to remain a babe. A babe cannot understand at first what its parents are saying to it; but a healthy babe will grow and learn very quickly. If you watch a babe, you will observe that it looks at its parents to see whether it may or may not do a certain thing. So the child of God should always be looking to see what our Father wishes him to do. Thus we become dear children, as the Apostle says; children whom God especially loves.

Now, then, we have before our minds the class of whom our Lord speaks in our text. Those who abide in Him are those who have been begotten of the Spirit, and who are walking in the narrow way. These constitute the Church of the living God, Jesus being their Head, their Forerunner and their redeemer.

Conditions of Abiding in Christ.

"If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you," is the Master's promise to His faithful followers. We abide in Him by continuing as we began. The Apostle says, "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice." This applies to us not only when we began our Christian course, but every day until the end. We have suggested that every morning we make a fresh presentation of ourselves to the Lord, not as making a new sacrifice, but as confirming [OV404] the one already made, saying in effect, "My little offering is still here; and I am hoping that it may be used of Thee to-day in some manner, that I may have some opportunity of laying down my life for the brethren and for the truth, that I may glorify Thee."

This is the way to abide in Him-- by keeping our contract. Daily we are to grow in knowledge, that we may continually have better opportunity to make something out of the day. Each day, perhaps, there are fresh privileges of sacrifice.

If we would have the Master's words abiding in us, we must study the Bible. This is the only way to know what God has said to us. The Lord calls the Bible a Storehouse. The Master represents Himself as the great chef and servant of God's household, who "brings forth things new and old." God provides for His own more and more information on what relates to His purposes, the fulfillment of prophecies, etc. As time goes by, we are getting a better understanding of the Bible, since the day when we said from the heart, "Thy will, not mine, be done."

Dear reader, let us first make sure that we are in Christ. Then let us abide in Him; let us never even think of getting out of relationship to Him. Study the Word, to know what He has promised and what He has not promised. Use all the privileges which God has granted to His saints. Whoever faithfully does this may ask what he will, and rest assured that he will receive it. But those who are thus abiding in Him will ask chiefly for spiritual blessings. They will ask continually for the Holy Spirit; for the Word declares that the Father is pleased to have His children ask for this gift. (Luke 11:13.) This holy influence will enable us to develop the fruits of the Holy Spirit--meekness, gentleness, patience, brotherly kindness, love. Thus let us daily grow in His love and grace.

POOR, fainting spirit, still hold on thy way--
The dawn is near!
True, thou art weary; but yon brighter ray
Becomes more clear.
Bear up a little longer; wait for rest;
Yield not to slumber, though with toil oppressed.

The night of life is mournful, but, look on--
The dawn is near!
Soon will earth's shadowy scenes and forms be gone;
Yield not to fear!
The mountain's summit will, ere long, be gained,
And the bright world of joy and peace attained.

"Joyful through hope," thy motto still must be--
The dawn is near!
What glories will that dawn unfold to thee!
Be of good cheer!
Gird up thy loins; bind sandals on thy feet;
The way is dark and long; the end is sweet.
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