What Lack I?

Let's revisit the Rich Young Ruler's question.

ARTHUR W. SPALDING

Let me not ask, as the rich young ruler asked Jesus, "What lack I yet? That "yet" intimated that he was pretty good, that he had de­veloped a nearly perfect char­acter, that he was about fit for the kingdom of heaven. He did not stop with an intimation; he stated it: "All these things [Ten Commandments] have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?"

Schooled by persistent Christian teach­ing, I am a little hesitant to echo that young man's boast; but yet the temptation overcomes me. Brought up among those who "measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves among themselves," I have by nature a desire to prove, if I can, that I am as good as or better than other men. So in some pride, with near­sighted vision, I preen myself before the mirror of the law:

First commandment: I acknowledge Christ and God the Father and the Holy Spirit; I have no other gods before the Trinity. Second, I do not make me graven images, nor bow down to them. Third, I do not blaspheme. Fourth, I keep the Sab­bath of the Lord, the seventh day. Eighth, I do not steal; I pay tithe and offerings. Ninth, I have been an honorable man, tell­ing the truth. Tenth, Having sufficient, I do not covet any man's possessions; at least I try not to.

Having been born a Seventh-day Ad­ventist, all these things have I kept from my youth up. I am not so far behind the rich young ruler after all. Indeed, I am a little better; for, speaking religiously, I know more than he. I am rich and in­creased with goods, and have need of noth­ing, except, indeed, some more of the same tomorrow, and that will be given me, like my daily bread.

About a hundred years ago the message began to come that we are the Laodicean church. A hundred years of hearing this message from God!

Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see."

We the Laodicean church! Why, Lord, what do I lack? I have gold, which is the truth; I have good raiment, finespun and varicolored, the righteousness which comes from keeping Thy law; my eyes are open, I see the wickedness of the world, and even the errors of my brethren. Tomorrow I shall need more of this heavenly fare. In­deed, I shall need a mighty increase; for the wickedness of the world waxes greater every day and the defects of my brethren appear larger every day; it is going to take a great outpouring of Thy Spirit to lift us over the breakers into the heavenly harbor. But constantly I pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

"And knowest not"! "AND KNO WEST NOT"! "I counsel thee to . . . anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see."

The Laodicean church is the last in the seven-epoch history of the church. There is no church beyond, in time. There is no call from Christ to "come out" of Laodicea, as there is to come out from Babylon. Who­ever belongs to the church of Christ today belongs to Laodicea. We are the Laodi­cean church.

(A little eyesalve, Lord!) We? We? WE? We is the plural of /. It is not the plural of thou. So far as I am concerned we means I. If, brethren, you want to join with me in this "we," come; but remember that so far as each is concerned, we means /; it does not mean you. "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (A little more eyesalve, Lord!)

Says the True Witness:

"Come, then. Come look into the Law with the new vision I have given you. FIRST COMMANDMENT: You honor as many gods before Me as you have preferences and habits that keep you from perfect obedi­ence. Second: You have graven images upon your heart that make it a temple of idols. For instance, amusements and games of rivalry."

(Lord, give us faith! Anoint mine eyes with heavenly eyesalve, that I may see as Thou seest.)

"THIRD COMMANDMENT: You take the name of the Lord in vain when you profess the truth but do it not, as in diet, dress, work, recreation, reading, radio, television, Bible study, prayer, missionary service, love, and whenever you pray, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not the things which I say. FOURTH: You lay aside your secular work, indeed, on Saturday, and that is the seventh day. But do you have Sabbath 'rest' in your heart, the indwelling of Christ, who gives rest to the spirit of those who come to Him? Do you commercialize the Sabbath day, as did the money-changers in the Temple? Is this the rest that I have chosen?

"FIFTH COMMANDMENT: You honor not your parents when you obey not God, when you depart in any degree from the law. SIXTH: Go to the Sermon on the Mount! Do you envy, slander, hate your fellow men? SEVENTH: Is there never im­purity in your thoughts? Do you never prostitute the gift of life to the urgings of carnality? EIGHTH: You steal no money or lands or substance; you pay your tithe. But do you steal time, talent, ministry, from the service I have appointed, service to your fellow men and to God?

"NINTH COMMANDMENT: You do not for­swear yourself in court or cottage; but do you show that disturbance of spirit, that absence from Christ, which is manifest in expletives, bywords, exaggeration, or in jesting and joking? TENTH: Look again! Look again! Look with new vision. Do you never covet the rich man's fare? the smart man's wit? the great man's fame? Do you never overextend yourself, and risk your credit, and curtail your benevolence, to ape the favorites of fortune in house, and car, and clothing? Is Christ so much your sufficiency that you gladly share with Him His poverty, His ministry, His love? Finally, is the law not merely your outer garment, but rather your inner self?"

Lord, open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.

The law of the Lord is perfect; I am im­perfect. The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous; I am a sinner, wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. All my gold is tinsel; all my right­eousness is as filthy rags.

What lack I? All!

I, the Laodicean, through the opening of my eyes under the eyesalve of the Al­mighty Saviour, recognize and acknowl­edge my evil estate; I face the fearful judgment:

"Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth."

Then I hear from those same lips:

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."

What lack I? Christ! And who is Christ? Christ is God. And who and what is God? God is love. What is my lack? My lack is Christ within. My lack is the love of God. Love is the mightiest power in the world; love is the mightiest power in the universe, in the earth below and in heaven above. We cannot separate love from God; for God is love. The worlds were created by the love of God; they are sustained by the love of God; their high destiny, beyond our ken, is determined by the love of God. Man was created by the love of God; man, fallen, is redeemed by the love of God; the new man in Christ is sustained by the love of God; his high destiny, which eye hath not seen nor ear heard nor heart com­prehended, is ordered by nothing less than the love of God.

Lord Jesus, I open the door of my heart. I am a Laodicean, wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked. Enter my heart, cleanse it, dwell there, commune with me, feed me, clothe me, give me the riches of Thy love. I cannot let Thee go tomorrow, or I lose my all. I cannot say, when Thou dost dwell within, "I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," else I shall be a lost Laodicean, spewed out of Thy mouth. Today I am a redeemed Lao­dicean, loved, rebuked, chastened, en­riched, clothed, enlightened, only by Thy presence. Thou dost overcome sin in me; Thou wilt fulfill Thy promise to seat me with Thee in Thy throne, as Thou hast overcome, and art set down with Thy Fa­ther in His throne. "Not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

What need, then, have I for any other power than the love of Christ? There is no other power that can conquer sin in me; there is no other power that can con­quer in the fight without. Shall I turn to the base elements of the world, to the false motives, the puny incentives, that move men who know not Christ? Shall I turn my back upon His command, and fall to competing with my fellow Christians for the little goals that mark no progress to­ward the heavenly land? Shall I consume the heart of Christ upon an altar of my envy and ambition?

Forbid it, God! While selfishness, ri­valry, and strife eat up the church, there can be no outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And I am the church. Banish, then, from my heart, O Christ, all by Thy perfect love. In Thy presence there is peace; there is power. Thou ridest forth by the power of love conquering and to conquer: may I follow in Thy train!


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ARTHUR W. SPALDING

June 1955

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