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The Essence of True Christianity

The last sermon given by Ray Crawford at the Portland headquarters church, on April 4, 1965.

To be a Christian is a tremendous responsibility. It is a call to live a holy and blameless life before God in this present world, and to let your light so shine that others may be won to Christ. ...

To be a Christian is a tremendous responsibility. It is a call to live a holy and blameless life before God in this present world, and to let your light so shine that others may be won to Christ.

In the seventeenth chapter of John is found Christ’s prayer to the Father on behalf of His disciples. Christ prayed not only for those who were with Him at that time, but for all who would believe on Him in ages to come.

All born-again Christians are included in that distinguished company for whom Christ prayed as He lifted His heart to the Father.

All born-again Christians are included in that distinguished company for whom Christ prayed as He lifted His heart to the Father and said: “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (John 17:13-20).

How glad we are for those wonderful words of Jesus that set forth the teaching of sanctification! The words of Jesus are the truths of God—the law of God. And “the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7). God’s truth will ever stand unchanged. Just as it always was, so will it always be. God’s Word is immutable. It cannot be improved, because in itself the Word of God is perfect.

Men are attempting to change the Bible, but what needs to be changed are the hearts and lives of men. Sinful man needs to be changed to conform to God’s truths which have stood the test of ages. There are many today who would take the “teeth” out of the “sharp threshing instrument”—God’s Word. They would modify it, water it down, and cause it to mean nothing, whereas it means everything to those who hear it and heed it.

True disciples

Jesus uttered a vital truth in His prayer when He said of the disciples, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” There is a definite mark of identification resting upon the child of God, the true disciple of Christ. The word “Christian” has become commonplace, even applied to people who are no more Christian than some of the pagans throughout the world. Having the label of “Christian” is not sufficient. Just to say that we believe in God is not enough.

The Word of God tells us, “He that cometh to God must believe that he is . . .” but to believe there is a God is only the first step. That same verse of Scripture continues by saying we must believe that “he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

The wise men of old diligently sought until they found the Christ. Today, truly wise men will seek diligently for Christ’s salvation when they learn that a Redeemer has come and that they can be saved from their sins.

A radical change

Many of us have experienced a wonderful transformation in our lives in answer to our faith. That change took place because of our thorough repentance and a full surrender of our lives to Christ. A person cannot know anything of the power of Christ’s redeeming grace until he has repented, forsaken his sinful ways—renounced them and turned his back upon them forever. Then and only then does he know the efficacy of redeeming grace, for only then is he given power to “go and sin no more.”

How important it is that we be redeemed and made ready to meet God! It is certain that we will meet Him either at the Throne of Grace or at the Throne of Judgment, for “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

It is possible even after having been saved to lose that spiritual life we once had, again become dead in trespasses and sins, and in the end meet God wholly unprepared. To carry the name Christian is not enough to escape God’s judgment if one is dead spiritually.

His espousal to Christ makes him despise everything that is contrary to the Lord’s will and wishes. He centers his affections upon pleasing the Lord. That is the attitude of a real Christian.

The sinner is dead unto God and the things of God. The one who is truly a Christian is alive unto Christ and His righteousness. His espousal to Christ makes him despise everything that is contrary to the Lord’s will and wishes. He centers his affections upon pleasing the Lord. That is the attitude of a real Christian.

Assurance of our standing

How do we know that we are saved? God’s Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. Possibly we, like Jacob of old, wrestled in prayer before we received the deeper things of God. God answered our prayer when we prayed with persistence. And we have kept the faith only because we have fought a good fight against the adversaries of our souls: against false teachers, false doctrine, false causes. It means something to walk in the straight and narrow way. It means something to go right down the center of the road, not to be extreme one way or the other.

Those who are serving God with their whole hearts, fervently keeping in the center of His holy will, can rest assured that they are still saved and have kept the faith.

Love for God brings hatred of sin

What is the center of our affections? It is whatever our hearts are wrapped up in. If we really love Christ, we carry a continuous love for Him that enables us to renounce sin, to resist temptation, to overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

What is our testimony? It is not merely what we say with our mouths, but what we live. What we do speaks louder many times than what we say.

Those who have pledged their allegiance to Jesus Christ, to His Kingdom, and to His Gospel, are the true disciples of Christ—people who are triumphant over the adversary and enemy of their souls.

The genuine Christian, the overcomer, meets temptations with a positive and definite “No!” His denouncement of sin comes from a heart that is devoted to Christ. The center of his affections is in the beloved Son of God, and that person is going to fulfill Christ’s expectation of him and will be a living testimony in this world of sin.

Sin is hideous in the sight of God. He does not look upon it with any degree of allowance. Paul the Apostle once said, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). True repentance brings a transformation in a life that makes a Christian such as Paul defined—a new creature in Christ Jesus.

A second need

The prayer that Christ prayed for His disciples thrills the heart of the true Christian: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). In other words, cleanse their hearts; make them pure and holy.

“Sanctification” is fast becoming an obsolete word in so-called Christian circles today, but it is still in the Bible. Holiness is still in the economy of God; it is still on the spiritual menu. If you are hungry, you will find that all the spiritual “vitamins” necessary for spiritual development, physique, and strength are found in the Word of God.

God does not want an army of undernourished and anemic Christians. He wants Christian soldiers who are fit for the battle. The Lord has provided all the equipment we need for that battle.

God does not want an army of undernourished and anemic Christians. He wants Christian soldiers who are fit for the battle. The Lord has provided all the equipment we need for that battle: the sword, the breastplate, the helmet. The armor in all its fullness is described for us in Ephesians 6:11-18. But unless we are willing to come to God and ask Him for what we need with persistent earnestness, we are going to fall out of the ranks, unfitted, unequipped for service in the Master’s Kingdom.

Count the cost

Oh, if we could but grasp the importance of the things that God has provided for us! Some get converted, or at least come to God for conversion, and as Jesus said, they haven’t first counted the cost. The Christian life is not something that can just be sauntered into without a determination of the will. God help us to get a sense of values along spiritual lines, to know what is necessary in order to attain the Kingdom of God!

When the Apostle was penning his epistle to the church of Philippi, he told them that they should be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation” (Philippians 2:15). Strong words! But it takes strong prayer and determination to produce that kind of life. Do not think for a moment that salvation is just a casual affair. Don’t think that one can become a possessor of God’s salvation without the consciousness of having it down deep in the heart.

This business of serving God is a serious matter! Taking the name of “Christian” upon our lips is more than breath and the formation of words. It takes real persistence in prayer. That is why the Old Testament saints thrived. Think of Jacob, Daniel, the Hebrew Children, and other worthies of old who prevailed in prayer!

In Isaiah 45:11, God’s words are: “Command ye me.” Think of it! And then many generations later, Jesus came and said, “The kingdom of heaven sufferenth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). It pays to be in earnest—to show ardent zeal and exert ourselves intensely in our prayers, and this can be the case when we are praying in accordance with the will of God.

Letting our lights shine

Jesus, in His prayer, said to the Father: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world” (John 17:18). He told His disciples: “Ye are my witnesses.” He intended very soon to leave this earth and He commissioned His disciples to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ, that sinners might be converted and find “joy unspeakable” and be “full of glory.”

God is looking for men and women today who will cut the shoreline, launch out into the deep, take hold of the promises of God, bear witness of the truth, and win souls for Him.

Jesus said to the disciples, “Ye are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Rest assured that if salt has not lost its savor, it is going to make things “smart” a bit here and there. There will be a reaction, an effect. That is what happens when the true child of God bears witness to the truth.

Jesus also said to His followers, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14). He wants each of us to let our light shine; and when it shines, somebody is going to catch a gleam of that light of truth. Even if men pay no heed to it, our lives lived for Christ will condemn them in the day of judgment.

It is true that light has come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light. People are not taking the way of salvation in vast numbers; but some here and there are getting a glimpse of the glory of God and are seeking and finding salvation.

The purpose for letting our lights shine is that men may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in Heaven. Oh, that men might see good works in us—not evil works! The greatest stumbling block before an unbelieving world is the inconsistency of people who make a profession of religion and do not live in accordance with the standard of God’s Word.

The keeping power of Christ

Can the Lord keep our souls? Oh, yes! He can keep that which we commit unto Him against that day—the day of judgment, the day in which every man’s works will be tried to determine of what sort they are. Scripture tells us that He is able to keep. Jude 24 speaks of “him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” He will keep us if we follow instructions from the Word of God. Every phase of life is represented in the Book of God, and in it can be found the answer to our every problem.

We challenge you, unsaved friend, backslider, or one who only professes faith in God without a testimony that backs up that profession, to put God’s promises to the test. Do not pass judgment upon something that you have never tried. Do not say there is nothing to God’s promises if you have never tried them. God’s Word is true. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but His Word shall never pass away.

Some ask, “How do you account for the terrible drifting toward sin and the entrance of the ways of the world into religious organizations today?” We account for it simply by reading God’s Word, which says, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

The Word describes the conditions of the human heart in these days, and after that, it concludes by saying those people who are falling away from the truth have a “form of godliness” but deny “the power thereof.” Imagine the audacity of denying the power of God! We know there is power in the Gospel of Jesus Christ—it is the power of God unto salvation unto all who believe.

If we follow God’s Word, it will unerringly lead us to the Haven of Rest where we shall be richly satisfied for all eternity. 

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12). That is the teaching found in God’s Book. If we forsake the Bible, we are certain to go astray and it could be in any direction. But if we follow God’s Word, it will unerringly lead us to the Haven of Rest where we shall be richly satisfied for all eternity. Think of basking in the sunlight of God’s presence, among the holy angels forever and ever!

Let me repeat, God’s call is a call to holiness. Heaven is a holy place; God is a holy God; and He has given us a holy Bible to direct our steps. By conforming our lives to the truths of His holy Book, we will not miss the appointed goal before us. Glory to God!

It is your privilege to attain that heavenly goal. What is your decision? The choice is yours whether or not you will make yourself ready for God’s eternal kingdom and be present when the roll is called and the saints are rewarded. Will you be there?

May this be the day, the time, the hour, the moment when you count the cost and pay the price. Yes, there is a price—it is the forsaking of all sin and a full committal of your life unto God. It may be that the price is what is keeping you out of the Kingdom. You had better decide to meet God’s terms. Come to Him in honesty, sincerity, true purpose of heart, and see what He will do for you. The riches in Christ Jesus will be yours here below, and you will be the possessor of life eternal hereafter if you are faithful to the end.

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