Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Church, Toowoomba – Date: 22 October 2017

For more sermons and other writings, please check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org

 

Possessed by the Divine “Yes”

 

E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973) was an American Methodist missionary to India, a global evangelist and author. He was a friend of Mahatma Gandhi and other national leaders of all religions in India. One of his twenty-eight books, “Christ of the Indian Road”, sold more than one million copies. He is sometimes considered to be theBilly Graham of Indiaand, with international recognition (familiar and engaged with many heads of states, once working on a peace agreement between Japan and the United States before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the falling of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki), was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but rejoiced when Martin Luther King received the honour instead.

Stanley Jones’ particular mission was to preach and present Jesus Christ to the intellectual elite of India which he did in countless addresses in public halls all across India. He mixed and mingled and debated and bore witness among people of high influence who were of all religions. Then, in his eighties (83), he wrote his auto-biography (“A Song of Ascents”) and, this morning, I want to share from his life lessons: his grasp of the Bible and our relationship with God. This man saw wars (World War II), plenty of upheaval and more than one million people killed in the religious riots when Pakistan seceded from India (1947), but throughout his auto-biography he strikes a note of joy and affirmation of life.

Do you need joy this morning? Then hear the good news through E. Stanley Jones’ witness and processing the Bible.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._Stanley_Jones: He is remembered chiefly for his interreligious lectures to the educated classes in India, thousands of which were held across the Indian subcontinent during the first decades of the 20th century. According to his and other contemporary reports, his friendship for the cause of Indian self-determination allowed him to become a friend of leaders of the up-and-coming Indian National Congress party. He spent much time with Mohandas K. Gandhi, and the Nehru family. Gandhi challenged Jones and, through Jones' writing, the thousands of Western missionaries working there during the last decades of the British Raj, to include greater respect for the mindset and strengths of the Indian character in their work.

This effort to contextualize Christianity for India was the subject of his seminal work, The Christ of the Indian Road (ISBN 0-687-06377-9), which sold more than 1 million copies worldwide after its publication in 1925.

He is also the founder of the Christian Ashram movement. He is sometimes considered the “Billy Graham of India”. If William Carey was considered the “Father of Modern Missions” in the 18th century, Eli Stanley Jones was the same in the 20th century in his own way.

 

 

www.bu.edu/missiology/missionary-biography/i-k/jones-e-stanley-1884-1973/: Born in Clarksville, Maryland, Jones was converted at age 17, studied law, and graduated from Asbury College (1906). In 1907, under the Board of Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, he went to Lucknow, India, where he had a fruitful pastorate. Ordained both a deacon and an elder in 1908, he worked as district missionary superintendent and revival preacher.

Responding to a call to serve India’s intelligentsia, he delivered carefully prepared addresses (later published as widely influential books), followed by grueling question periods, in public halls throughout India. His early narrow and individualistic approach became more liberal and social. His roundtable conferences predated the interfaith dialogue emphasis of the World Council of Churches. He attended meetings of the International Missionary Council at Jerusalem (1928) and at Madras (1938). He founded a Christian ashram at Sat Tal in the Himalayas (1930) and later an international ashram movement. He was a friend of Mahatma Gandhi and other national leaders of all religions; his sympathies with the nationalist movement antagonized the British authorities and kept him out of India during World War II. In a valiant effort to avoid war between Japan and the United States, Jones worked with his Christian contacts in the Japanese embassy in Washington to stimulate last-minute communication between President Roosevelt and Emperor Hirohito. His interest in mental health led to the founding of Nur Manzil Psychiatric Center, Lucknow (1948).

From the 1930s, Jones’s evangelistic work extended to six continents, including ten visits he made to postwar Japan. His interest in church union led to 500 addresses to Christian gatherings across the United States. He wrote twenty-eight books, giving all royalties back to the church for scholarships and evangelism. His labors brought missions and evangelism to the forefront again and furthered peace and social witness. He declined episcopal election (1928). He received honorary degrees from Syracue University, Duke University, and many other schools. He received the Gandhi Peace Prize in 1961 and was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

He writes:

 

There is a passage in the New Testament on which I’ve never heard a sermon preached. Recently I preached a sermon on it, and now the stone rejected by the builders of sermons has become to me the head of the corner. It has begun to possess me, so I sing of it for it sings itself. It is this: “The divine ‘yes’ has at last sounded in him, for in him is the ‘yes’ that affirms all the promises of God” (II Corinthians 1:20 Moffatt).

This Yes has sounded when you least expect it. Everything was apparently saying No to Paul. Note the context: “For we do not you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction which we experienced in Asia; for we were utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt we had received the sentence of death (II Corinthians 1:8 RSV). It was out of that inhuman No that Paul suddenly tells of the Divine Yes. So this Yes was no cheap, easy Yes. It was a Yes in spite of.

 

E. Stanley Jones may have never heard a sermon on this passage but, as it happens, in the last month I preached twice on precisely these verses:

 

2 Corinthians 1:20-22: For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

 

We agreed with Stanley Jones’ observation that the apostle Paul, the writer of these verses, was not writing them in the midst of a cruisy and easy Christian life but upheld theYesin Christ despite persecution and deprivation. There was daily renewal of inward emotions and resilience, and a great hope – a joyful expectation – about the future.

 

2 Corinthians 4:7-18: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 

Stanley Jones, not ever having heard a single sermon on the “Yes” in Christ to all of God’s promises according to 2 Corinthians 1:20, felt that he wanted to pay greater attention to the words and they began (in his words) topossesshim and he began tosingof them.

And from all of his dialogues with other religions, he recognized how unique the Christian faith was:

 

…So this Yes was no cheap, easy Yes. It was a Yes in spite of. Practically all life and all systems of philosophy were saying No.

Call the roll of the ancient philosophies – and the modern – and they all come out to a No. The note of pessimism about life sounds in them all. Take Buddhism: Buddha, in his meditation under the Bo tree at Gaya, India came to the startling conclusion: “Existence and suffering are one”, inextricably bound up together. The only way to get out of suffering is to get out of life. So cut the root of desire and become desireless, even for life, and then you can go out into that state, literally, “of the snuffed candle” – Nirvana.

This is the most decisive No ever uttered about life. And yet hundreds of millions cling to this cling to this vast No as emancipation, for they feel life is saying the same, life is a No.

Take the Vendanta philosophy, the outstanding philosophy of India. It says you are to lose your separate individual personality and be absorbed into the impersonal essence, called Brahma. So you as a person are wiped out – like a raindrop you are lost in the ocean of the impersonal. It, too, is a vast No.

Take Islam: Fundamentally Islam means submission – submission to the sovereign will of God. Your will is gone; his will is all. For all intents and purposes the individual is swamped in the divine. This too is a vast No.

Take Stoicism: To shut out sorrow and suffering, the Stoic had to shut out love and pity too, for if love and pity came in, then sorrow and suffering would come trooping in behind. This, too is a vast No to the “greatest thing in the world” – love.

Schopenhauer, the apostle of pessimism, seated on a park bench was asked by a policeman who thought him a tramp: “Who are you, and what are you here for?” Schopenhauer replied sadly, “I wish I knew.” His was a No – a sad question mark. The loudest and saddest No that has been been sounded on our planet is the latest: “God is dead.” It is not only a No to life, but to God, the author of life; both God and life are dead. This is the nadir of the No.

Now in the midst of this world chorus of No, at last – at long last, – “the divine ‘yes’ has sounded.” And Jesus is that Yes. This is a new and startling note in a world whose pessimism has reduced the world’s music to a minor key. There are no “Hallelujah Choruses” in ancient or modern non-Christianity.[1]

 

According to his assessment, many ancient philosophies and religions are pessimistic about life but Jesus says Yesto all of us and he gives joy. I may give you a few Bible readings on the Christian joy before coming back to Stanley Jones:

 

Romans 14:17: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

 

2 Corinthians 8:1-2: And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

 

Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

1 Thessalonians 1:6-10: You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore, we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

 

1 Peter 1:3-9: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see Jesus Christ [original: him] now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 

The very essence of God’s kingdom includes joy in the Holy Spirit – inexpressible and glorious joy over our salvation and abiding joy given by the Holy Spirit (despite needs, trials and suffering). If you don’t know about this, you can risk responding to Jesus and find out by experience whether it is true.

Here are a few more general observations from Stanley Jones before we have a look at the foundation of his life, his conversion and birth as a Christian.

 

I have watched the Ashram groups, from forty to four hundred in number, come together. In the beginning they would be stiff and proper and unsmiling. Then gradually they would change; before the end of the week they would laugh at anything. They would have a half-trigger laugh. Why? Because they would get up and out of their conflicts, their sins, their self-preoccupation and surrender them to Christ, and then gaiety would set in as cause and effect.

A group of the Ashram went to the Yellowstone Park, and at the hotel dining room we were gay at breakfast. “Gay at breakfast?” – the other guests looked at us as though we were some “queer birds.” They only knew gaiety at night after some cocktails! They got their gaiety out of bottles; we got ours our of Christ…[2]

 

The reason this age is cynical is simple. It has lost sight of the Divine Yes. When Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on the water. When he got his eyes on the waves and the wind, he sank. This age has its eyes on the wind and the waves, and it is sinking into pessimism and fears. It has become problem centered. Of one modern minister it was said: “Without a problem spake he not unto them.” This is a problem-centered age, and we have become problems dealing with problems. I asked six hundred social workers: “Aren’t you problems dealing with problems?” And they burst out laughing, as much as to say. How did you know us? …[3]

 

How did everything begin with Stanley Jones?

 

How did it all begin? My first remembered contact with religion was when, as a little boy, I went to the Sunday school at Frederick Avenue Methodist Church, South, in Baltimore, dressed in a brand-new suit. To call attention to my new suit, and me, I took a collection plate and began to pass it around before the grown-ups standing chatting. I didn’t hope to get any money. I hoped to collect compliments for my new suit and incidentally, for myself.  Hardly an auspicious beginning with religion. And yet, I had unwittingly run into the central problem in religion – the problem of the self-assertive self.

My second crisis contact with religion was when, about ten years later, at the age of fifteen, I was in the gallery of the Memorial Church, with a group of boys, mostly my chums. The speaker was an Englishman from John Bunyan’s church in England. He was a man of God, and at the close of his address, he pointed his finger to where we were seated and said: “Young men, Jesus said, ‘He that is not with me is against me.’” It went straight to my heart. I knew I wasn’t with him, but I didn’t want to be against him. It shook me. I turned to my chum and said: “I’m going to give myself to Christ. Will you?” He replied: “No, I’m going to see life first.” Then I saw I would have to go alone, and I did.

I climbed over the young men, went down the steps and up the aisle to the altar, and took my place among the seekers. I felt undone and wept – wept because I was guilty and estranged. I fumbled for a latchstring to the kingdom of God, and missed it, for they didn’t tell me the steps to find it. I stood up at the close when they asked us if it was all right with us. I wanted the Kingdom of God, wanted reconciliation with my heavenly Father, but took church membership as a substitute.

My mother came into my room the next morning and silently kissed me before I got out of bed. Her son was a Christian. But I soon found out I wasn’t. I felt religious for a few weeks, and then it all faded out and I was back again to where I was before, the springs of my character and my habit formation unchanged. I had been horizontally converted, but not vertically. I was outwardly in, but not inwardly in. It was a sorry impasse. I could have lived out my life on that level the balance of my days, a cancelled-out person, neither here nor there.

But as I look back, I am not sorry I went through that half-conversion which was a whole failure. For the fact that I got out of that failure was used to encourage those who have settled down into a compromised stalemate, dull, listless, and with no note of victory. They too can get into the real thing. So my failure could be used to help others to victory. [I have come to the conclusion that two thirds of the people in the churches need conversion. Only one third know at firsthand what conversion really is. It is that one third that keep the soul of the church alive. The two thirds then are a field of evangelism instead of a force of evangelism. I have therefore spent more than half of my life in trying to convert the unconverted church members.][4]

The real thing came two years later. An evangelist, Robert J. Bateman, came to Memorial Church. Through his rough exterior I saw there was reality within. He was a converted alcoholic, on fire with God’s love. I said to myself, “I want what he has.” This time I was dead serious. I was not put off by catch phrases and slogans. I wanted the real thing or nothing. No halfway house for me; I wanted my home. For three days I sought. During those three days I went to the altar twice.

One of those times my beloved teacher, Miss Nellie Logan, knelt alongside me and repeated John 3:16 this way: “God so loved Stanley Jones, that he gave his only begotten Son, that if Stanley Jones will believe on him, he shall not perish but have everlasting life.” I repeated after her but no spark of assurance kindled in my heart.

The third night came. Before going to the meeting I knelt beside my bed and prayed the most earnest prayer I had prayed so far in my life. My whole life was behind that simple prayer: “O Jesus, save me tonight.” And he did! A ray of light pierced my darkness. Hope sprang up in my heart. I found myself saying, “He’s going to do it.” I now believe he had done it, but I had been taught that you found him at the altar of prayer. So I felt I must go to church to an altar of prayer.

I found myself running the mile to the church. The eagerness of my soul got into my body. I was like Christian (in Pilgrim’s Progress) running from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City! I went into the church and took the front seat, a thing I had never done before. I was all eagerness for the evangelist to stop speaking so I could get to that altar of prayer. When he did stop, I was the first one there! I had scarcely bent my knees when Heaven broke into my spirit. I was enveloped by assurance, by acceptance, by reconciliation. I grabbed the man next to me by the shoulder and said: “I’ve got it.”

“Got it?” What did I mean? I see now it was not an “it,” it was a him. I had him – Jesus – and he had me. We had each other. I belonged. My estrangement, my sense of being an orphan, were gone. I was reconciled. As I rose from my knees I felt I wanted to put my arms around the world and share this with everybody. Little did I dream at that moment that I would spend the rest of my life literally trying to put my arms around the world to share this with everybody. But I have. 

This was a seed moment. The whole of my future was packed into it. Crude? No, creative. Emotional? It took an emotional upheaval to carry me across from a self-preoccupied life to a Christ-preoccupied life. The center of my being was changed from self to Savior. I didn’t try by an act of my will to give up my sins – they were gone. I looked into his face and was forever spoiled for anything that was unlike Him. The whole of me was converted. There was nothing the same except the name. It was the birthday of my soul. Life began there. Note I say “began” – the whole of my life has been an unfolding of what was infolded in that moment.

So my Song of Ascents began there. Up to that moment I had no Song, and I had no Ascents. After that moment I had both. Life began to sing and to wing. And I did nothing but take it! That was the most sensible thing I ever did – barring none. It was sense and has worked out as sense. Beside it all else seemed, and seems, non-sense.

What had really happened? I said that “a tiny ray of light had pierced my darkness.” In that ray of light, as in all light, were seven colors blended – three primary, the rest secondary.

 

(1)    A sense of forgiveness and reconciliation with God, with life, with my brothers, with myself. The universe seemed to open its arms and take me in. The parable of the prodigal son was reenacted in my setting.

(2)    A sense of being at home in my homeland. I did not try to make myself at home in my new condition and position – I was at home. This was my native land. This had the feeling of a homecoming upon it. This is where I belonged. (Incidentally, this at-homeness as a central characteristic of the Christian life will run through this book as its theme song.)

(3)    A sense of purpose, direction, and goal. I had been a raft, tossed by storms and waves of meaningless emotion. Now I had been taken aboard a great liner that was going somewhere, with some goal, with power to move on to that goal. A woman in one of our Ashrams asked: “Is there anyone here with a car going anywhere?” Well, I didn’t want to go “anywhere.” I had a goal and power to move on to that goal.

(4)    A sense of not being alone. I had Another who knew and understood me perfectly and was always with me. In spite of knowing me, he loved me. I was loved, and I was giving love. I was no longer preoccupied with myself. My entire being went out in gratitude and love to Another. My self absorbed me no longer. That was the greatest emancipation. With it came a sense of caring. I began to think of and care for others.

(5)    A sense of being a person. My total being was awakened and coordinated and fulfilled. One man said: “I’m not a man; I’m a menagerie.” I was a menagerie too, growling with passions, in a state of tension. But now I was at peace with myself and respected myself as a person. My whole being was awakened, including my mind.

(6)    A sense of wholeness. Fragmentation was over. Life was pulled into central meanings and purposes around a single Center.

(7)    A sense of grace. How did this happen to me? I felt so undeserving and so unworthy, and yet it was mine! I found myself going off in solitude and reading my New Testament, and when I came across a verse which spoke of him, I found myself reverently pressing my lips to that verse. The people in the synagogue “wondered at the words which fell from his lips.” I did too. And the wonder has turned into a life wonder. I gaze at him and wonder and wonder until my knees bend in gratitude. But I’m soon up on my feet again with a compulsion, a divine compulsion to share this with everyone, everywhere.

 

These seven colors of the light that pierced my darkness are a part of that light and only a part, for the light comprehends them; but the light is much more. He is my everything, a word I have unashamedly borrowed from Rufus Moseley, a saint of the Southland, for I could find no other suitable word.

Conversion was the pivot on which everything turned in my life… So at seventeen, going through adolescence, I stumbled across this “treasure” of conversion, this “treasure” without which this present age is stumbling and fumbling into moral and spiritual chaos. If someone suggests “adolescent phenomenon” my reply is that adolescence is an awakening, not merely of the sex urge, but of the total person – physical, mental, spiritual. In that awakening of the total person the spiritual is included and cries out for adjustment, for wholeness, for God. That crisis threw me into the arms of Christ instead of into sex license, and disillusionment, as happens today with many.

I must pause long enough to tell about my chum who did not see any “treasure” in what I saw. He looked elsewhere. When I said, “Ras, I’m going to give myself to Jesus Christ. Will you?” and he replied, “No, I’m going to see life first,” we parted. He was to see life through his own desires; I was to see life through the desires of Christ. After thirty years we met again: “Do you remember the night we parted? You said you were going to see life, and I said I was going to see Life. We’ve had thirty years in which to test our ways. How did you come out?”

His eyes dropped, he looked confused, and then said: “You wouldn’t approve of the way I’m living.” And when he told me what he was doing (following the races), I replied: “No, I’m sorry. I can’t.” “But,” he added, “it looks as though you’ve found Life.” “Yes, I have,” I replied. “And I found it the night I found Christ.” “Well, I’d better come over on your way,” he added. “You should have come over thirty years ago. You’ve worse than wasted thirty good creative years.” He took the way of chance, and I took the will of Christ. He came out at dissatisfaction, and I came out at satisfaction, the deepest that life can know. And conversion made the difference…

He put a Song in my heart, for I had something to sing about. Many undertones and overtones have enriched that Song, but there I caught the standard note – “Jesus” – a Savior from what I didn’t want to be to what I wanted to be... From the day I was given that “note” to this day, sixty-six years later, I have been sounding that “note” through all the world. And I hope my last gasp will be, “I commend my Savior to you.”[5]

 

You can be in the church and very knowledgeable about the Bible but still not know what kind of experience Stanley Jones is sharing here. Jesus had to explain the nature of conversion to one of the Bible experts of his day:

 

John 3:1-21: Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everysone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

 

Stanley Jones was born again – converted to faith in Jesus Christ – at the age of seventeen and this was a work of the Spirit of God, and only then he had eyes to see the kingdom of God – the forgiveness, the sense of belonging and purpose, a sense of wholeness and grace.

Do you want what he received? Jesus is calling you – inviting you – but it is a choice. His closest family, those that knew him since birth, could observe the changes and then wanted what he had.

 

Before I leave this aftermath of conversion, I must mention another prepared or unprepared incident which I had to face. It is comparatively easy to face a street meeting crowd, prepared or unprepared, but this was in my own household and that is more difficult.

My grandmother, whom we dearly loved, at eighty-two said to me the day after Christmas: “Well, Stanley, I suppose I won’t be here next Christmas.” “But you’re prepared to go, aren’t you?” I asked. The silent tears began to flow down her cheeks, and she shook her head and said, “No, I’m not.”

It would have been easy to avoid a crisis by telling her what a wonderful grandmother she had been to us all, but it was given me in that hour what I should say. I needed it, for this was my first attempt to lead a person to Christ, and she was my beloved grandmother.

I simply said, “Let us get on our knees and talk to God about it.” I began to pray for her, and in the midst of it she clapped her hands and kept saying: “He has come to me.” He had, and her blessed wrinkled face was a sunrise. Eighteen and eighty-two rejoiced together. Every day I would go into her room and we would pray together. We discovered this Christian fellowship on our knees, and we kept it up and cultivated it on our knees.[6]

 

My mother’s portrait, part of a family picture, hangs on the walls of my room in the home of Mrs. J. K. Mathews, my daughter, and Bishop Mathews. It is used as a guest room when I am not there. A modern girl, guest of one of my granddaughters, using my room, said she couldn’t sleep because my mother’s face seemed so strict.

The modern girl, obsessed with a desire for personal freedom, was afraid of strictness in a mother’s face. I was filled with nothing but gratitude for the strictness in my mother’s face; it held me at least to outer decency till conversion took over. Some time after I was converted my mother went forward to the altar of prayer.

I went and knelt beside her and asked, “Mother, what do you want?” And she replied: “I don’t know, but I want what you have.” She found it. There she passed from law to grace, from strictness to surrender.[7]

 

However, this is not the end of Stanley Jones’ testimony. He needed more from God to keep singing the song of joy and salvation. He highlights how important it was for him to be mentored by someone else. It takes a bit of learning and understanding and encouragement to live as a Christian. Then, he writes:

 

“The soul gets on by a series of crises.” I’ve found it so. In conversion there is the sudden, or gradual, rise to a new level of life, a life as different from the ordinary man as the ordinary man is different from the animal. Then after the rise life is on a permanently higher level. But on that new level there usually ensues an experience of ups and downs, of alternate encouragement and discouragement, of victory and defeat. It was so with me.

For a year I lived under cloudless skies. The sun of my happiness seemed to have risen in the heavens to stay there forever. But after a year of unalloyed joy I found something alien began to rise from the cellar of my life. I felt there was something down there not in alignment with the new life I had found – ugly tempers, moodiness, deep down conflicts. The general tenor of life was victory, but there were disturbing intrusions from the depths. I was becoming a house divided against itself. I was puzzled, confused, hurt with a tinge of disappointment. Was this the best that Christianity could do – to leave me wrestling with myself; or with something alien to myself! What was this dark something within?

Theology has described it as the “old man,” the “flesh,” “innate depravity.” Perhaps it can best be described in more understandable terms as the “unconverted subconscious.” The subconscious is like the submerged portion of an iceberg, one tenth above and nine tenths below. Freud says we are determined by lower drives in the subconscious. We think we subconsciously determine our conduct, but these basic drives in the subconscious actually determine us. These basic drives can be roughly described as self, sex, and the herd…

Which of these urges is the dominant urge it is hard to say, for there are moments when each seems dominant for that moment. But if I were to pick out the most decisive and dominant urge, I would say the self urge is. For beside having its own peculiar manifestations, the self is manifested in the sex urge as the self’s desire for pleasure and in the herd urge as the self’s desire for protection, through conformity. So “innate depravity” is the self surrendered to nothing except itself – the self becomes God.

In conversion a new life is introduced into the conscious mind as we consciously accept Christ as Savior and Lord. A new love and a new loyalty flood the conscious mind. The subconscious mind is stunned and subdued by this new dominant loyalty to Christ, introduced into the conscious mind by conversion. Sometimes it lies low for long periods, subdued but not surrendered. It waits for low moments in the conscious mind and then sticks up its head and, when it sees an opportunity, takes over the conscious mind. Then we are a house divided against itself. Paul put it this way: “If we are guided by the Spirit you will not fulfil the desires of your lower nature. That nature sets its desires against the Spirit, while the Spirit fights against it. They are in conflict with one another so that what you will to do you cannot do” (Galatians 5:16-17 NEB).

This was my condition after a year of almost unalloyed joy and victory. I was in a crisis. I was stymied by this inner conflict. And then a door out of the conflict opened, opened through a book. When I took that book out of a Sunday school library, I felt a sense of destiny in reaching for it. A kind of tingle went through me, a tingle of expectancy. There was destiny in taking that book, for it changed my life and helped me solve the crisis I was in. I began to read “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life”, by Hanna Whitehall Smith, a Quaker. It told of complete victory for the person.

My heart was kindled with desire as I read it. I wasn’t reading it; I was eating it. I got to the forty-second page when God spoke to me: “Now is the time to find.” I pleaded: “Lord, I don’t know what I want. This book is telling me. Let me read the book first and then I can intelligently seek.” But the voice was imperious: “Now is the time to find.”

I tried to read on, but the words were blurred. I saw I was in a controversy with God, so I closed the book, dropped on my knees beside my bed, and said: ‘Now Lord, what shall I do?’ And he replied: ‘Will you give me your all?’ And after a moment’s hesitation I replied: ‘Yes, Lord, of course I will give you my all, all I know and all I don’t know’. Then he replied: ‘Then take my all, take the Holy Spirit.”

I paused for a moment: my all for his all; my all was myself; his all was himself, the Holy Spirit. I saw as in a flash the offer. I eagerly replied: “I will take the Holy Spirit”. I arose from my knees, with no evidence, save his word. I walked out on the naked promise of that Word. His character was behind that Word. I could trust him with my all and I could trust him to give me his all. I walked around the room repeating my acceptance. The doubts began to close in on me. I did what Abraham did when the birds came to scatter his sacrifice – he shooed them away. I walked around the room pushing away with my hands the menacing doubts. When suddenly I was filled – filled with the Holy Spirit. Wave after wave of the Spirit seemed to be going through me as a cleansing fire. I could only walk the floor with the tears of joy flowing down my cheeks. I could do nothing but praise him – and did. I knew this was no passing emotion; the Holy Spirit had come to abide with me forever.

 

Stanley Jones received what was promised about Jesus that he would give:

 

Luke 3:16: John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

 

And he understood what had happened to him:

 

He had been with me, with me in the conscious mind in conversion. Now he was in me, in me in the subconscious. When he was with me in the conscious, it was conversion limited, for the subconscious was not redeemed; cowed and suppressed, but not redeemed. Now the subconscious was redeemed. These drives which reside in the subconscious – self, sex, and the herd – were cleansed; the self-urge cleansed from selfishness, the sex urge from sexuality, the herd urge from being fastened on society was now refastened on the Kingdom of God, the ultimate society. With these drives redeemed it was conversion unlimited, nothing left out of its sway.

Note, these drives were not eliminated; they were still there. It is impossible to eliminate them; they are an integral part of us, and cannot by any known process be eliminated. But they can be cleansed from personal and racial bents and can be consecrated to Kingdom purposes. The self instead of belonging to its self and trying to be God now belongs to God and seeks his glory and not its own. Sex cleansed from sexuality, no longer an end in itself, is now dedicated to creation: within the home dedicated to procreation and fellowship, outside the home sublimated to creativity, creating new hopes, new movements, newborn souls, new creative activities – creative on a higher level. The herd urge hitherto fastened on the futilities of allegiance to society around is now cleansed from that enslaving bondage and fastened on the fruitfulness of the Kingdom of God. You do not become unsocial, but loving God supremely you can love others subordinately, subordinately, but with a love intensified, you love others with his love.

These urges are cleansed, consecrated, and coordinated. They are no longer pulling in all directions, making you a civil war, a divided personality. They are under the one control of the Holy Spirit, so they are now a team working together for Kingdom ends. This is true of the conscious mind as well. The conscious mind and the subconscious mind are now under one redemption and one control, and “according well, they beat out music faster than before.”

That the subconscious mind can be redeemed is good news. For the area of the work of the Holy Spirit is largely in the subconscious mind. So if we surrender “all we know” – the conscious mind – “and all we don’t know” – the subconscious – then the Holy Spirit takes over areas in the subconscious which have hitherto been “enemy territory” and now makes them friendly territory. The subconscious works with you, a friend and ally. And an important ally of the new life…

This interpretation of what happens with the coming of the Holy Spirit may make possible a reconciliation of two views about the “deeper life”. One way says there is complete eradication of the “old man of sin,” and the other says there is suppression but not eradication. Obviously we cannot believe that in the Christian redemption we must provide for suppression of inner evil only but not for eradication. That would be a half-redemption, a coming to terms with evil, if only it lies low. Sin and evil must be eradicated. So we say with the coming of the Holy Spirit both the conscious and the subconscious mind are cleansed from sin and evil bents. This is eradication. But the driving urges, self, sex, and the herd, are still there. Since they are part of you, you can’t get rid of them. Hence they have to be suppressed, lest they try to climb back into dominance; this is suppression. So eradication and suppression are still facts of the Christian life – eradication of sin and evil and suppression of natural urges.

These natural urges can be the source of temptation; self, deposed in surrender and cleansing, may try to climb back into the saddle and become dominant again; sex, surrendered and cleansed, may try to depart from procreation and fellowship and may try to become an end in itself; the herd urge, surrendered and cleansed, may gradually listen more to society than to the Savior. These urges are still alive and have to be watched. So there is a truth in suppression.

But it is a half-truth. For the real Christian remedy is not suppression, but expression on a higher level. The self, dedicated to Christ, now expresses itself as the servant of all, thus becoming the greatest of all; sex, now dedicated to the creative God, becomes creative, creating procreation and fellowship within the home and, sublimated, outside the home, creating new movements, new hopes, newborn souls. The herd urge, now emancipated by surrender to God from subservience to society, can serve and love society – “delivering thee from the people to whom I send you.” Delivered from the people, you can now serve them – and only then!

So instead of sitting on a lid in suppression, you now take off the lid and bid these urges, now emancipated, to go forth and love and serve in the name and power of the Master and Lord. And you guide them by watchful prayer.

But even this watchful prayer has to be modified. It would mean tense anxiety about these urges. There is a corrective: instead of our trying by tense prayerful anxiety to keep these urges consecrated, there is the fact that the Holy Spirit himself consecrates them. He keeps them “on the altar.” “It falls to me to offer the Gentiles to him as an acceptable sacrifice, consecrated by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16 NEB). The Holy Spirit consecrates the sacrifice. That is important, for the usual idea is that through consecration we receive the Holy Spirit initially. That is true, but there is the further truth: the Holy Spirit keeps the gift consecrated. When we fully surrender ourselves and our urges to the Holy Spirit, he receives and cleanses them. But he also consecrates them and keeps them consecrated. That is a part of his redemptive work. That takes the strain, hence the drain, out of our Christian life. We are no longer nervously tying the sacrifices of our urges on the altar of consecration. We surrender them to the Holy Spirit, and he keeps them consecrated as a part of his job. So we can go about our jobs released and relaxed, knowing that he will attend to his…

As I look back, I find my experience coincides with the experience of the early church as to the permanent elements in the coming of the Holy Spirit. There seem to be two permanent elements in the coming of the Holy Spirit. Peter, speaking of what happened in the Gentiles’ Pentecost at the house of Cornelius, said: “God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8-9). Both Jew and Gentile received the Holy Spirit, and both of them had their hearts purified in the coming of the Holy Spirit.

This seemed a permanent element – purity of heart. The other permanent element was in what Jesus said: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses… in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Something would persist from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the earth, namely, the power to witness effectively for Jesus. Not “power” – full stop; but power of a certain kind, the power to witness to Jesus Christ. When we witness to our group, our denomination, our particular brand, it is not power – it is powwow. So the Holy Spirit means power to witness effectively for Christ.

Two things, then, are permanent in the gift of the Holy Spirit: purity and power. Purity for myself and my own inner needs, and power to witness effectively to others. These two things comprehended their needs then, and they comprehend my needs now.[8]

 

Have you ever had a year where you lived under cloudless skies, and then the clouds came and the joy went? Are you happy in your Christian faith right now? If you have not done it before or have done it before but need to refresh the commitment now, then consider doing what Stanley Jones did: “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Lifeis to give Jesus our all – absolute surrender – to gain his all, the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

 

This was my condition after a year of almost unalloyed joy and victory. I was in a crisis. I was stymied by this inner conflict. And then a door out of the conflict opened, opened through a book. When I took that book out of a Sunday school library, I felt a sense of destiny in reaching for it. A kind of tingle went through me, a tingle of expectancy. There was destiny in taking that book, for it changed my life and helped me solve the crisis I was in. I began to read “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life”, by Hanna Whitehall Smith, a Quaker. It told of complete victory for the person.

My heart was kindled with desire as I read it. I wasn’t reading it; I was eating it. I got to the forty-second page when God spoke to me: “Now is the time to find.” I pleaded: “Lord, I don’t know what I want. This book is telling me. Let me read the book first and then I can intelligently seek.” But the voice was imperious: “Now is the time to find.”

I tried to read on, but the words were blurred. I saw I was in a controversy with God, so I closed the book, dropped on my knees beside my bed, and said: “Now Lord, what shall I do?” And he replied: “Will you give me your all?” And after a moment’s hesitation I replied: “Yes, Lord, of course I will give you my all, all I know and all I don’t know”. Then he replied: “Then take my all, take the Holy Spirit.”

 

It sounds radical but it brings joy – the end of being divided against oneself. The Holy Spirit – the very power of God working in us – works toward joy:

 

He had been with me, with me in the conscious mind in conversion. Now he was in me, in me in the subconscious. When he was with me in the conscious, it was conversion limited, for the subconscious was not redeemed; cowed and suppressed, but not redeemed. Now the subconscious was redeemed. These drives which reside in the subconscious – self, sex, and the heard – were cleansed; the self-urge cleansed from selfishness, the sex urge from sexuality, the herd urge from being fastened on society was now refastened on the Kingdom of God, the ultimate society. With these drives redeemed it was conversion unlimited, nothing left out of its sway.

Note, these drives were not eliminated; they were still there. It is impossible to eliminate them; they are an integral part of us, and cannot by any known process be eliminated. But they can be cleansed from personal and racial bents and can be consecrated to Kingdom purposes. The self instead of belonging to its self and trying to be God now belongs to God and seeks his glory and not its own. Sex cleansed from sexuality, no longer an end in itself, is now dedicated to creation: within the home dedicated to procreation and fellowship, outside the home sublimated to creativity, creating new hopes, new movements, newborn souls, new creative activities – creative on a higher level. The herd urge hitherto fastened on the futilities of allegiance to society around is now cleansed from that enslaving bondage and fastened on the fruitfulness of the Kingdom of God. You do not become unsocial, but loving God supremely you can love others subordinately, subordinately, but with a love intensified, you love others with his love.

 

It needs to be experienced to be believed. But you can experience conversion and being born again by the Spirit of God. Try it out whether it is true and whether the Bible passage in 2 Corinthians 1:20 can also be a foundation for your life:

 

2 Corinthians 1:20-22: For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

 

Jesus loves you and your joy is important to him. I close with a few more illustrations of what joy in the Christian life can look like:

 

Speaking of laughter – in spite of: A devoted missionary had stayed in Japan throughout the war with its privations. At the close of the war some friends sent her some bacon, the first she had tasted since the war began. She and her little adopted Japanese daughter began to fry it with dancing anticipation. They were called out by a visitor, and when they got back, the bacon was burned to a crisp. They looked at it in dismay. The little girl spoke up, “Let’s have a good laugh.” And they did. That little girl comes into many situations with me when disaster strikes and she whispers, “Let’s have a good laugh.”[9] => As we are surrendered to Jesus, we can trust him in every situation and relying on his goodness “have a good laugh” even when the bacon is burned to a crisp.

 

I met a nurse in Canada who had an irrational fear of being at a tea party and dropping her cup in front of everybody. Because of this fear she changed her intention of being a religious education secretary to being a nurse. As a religious education secretary she might have had to go to tea parties; as a nurse she would not have to.

When a tea party was announced at the Ashram, I said to her: “Do you know what we are going to do? You and I are going to that tea party, and in front of everybody we will drop our teacups together.” She nearly went into a panic. I saw she was really afraid. So I went to the tea party, but she was not there – she was dodging it.

The last five minutes she came in and was standing with her back toward me, so I walked up behind her, took the cup from her hand, and dropped it before everybody. Instead of going into a panic, she backed off and laughed with me. That laugh broke her fear. From that moment she was free – so free that she became very attractive, married a minister, and goes to tea parties with anticipation and joy. It was quick surgery, but successful, and we both laugh over it when we meet.[10] => As we are surrendered to Jesus, we belong to him and him only, and we are free from the fear of what other people think about us. We can drop our cups of tea and laugh about it.

 

But I must put in the very high-water mark of laughter by this: A missionary lady in China was being taken out to be beheaded by bandits. On the way she thought how ridiculous it would be to see her head rolling down the hill and she in spirit going off to glory. So she burst out laughing.

Her captors asked her what she was laughing about. She told them, and then laughed. “Well,” they said, “if it’s going to make you happy, we are not going to do it.” So they freed her. She laughed her way out of her own beheading.[11] => As we are surrendered to Jesus, our lives are secure and we have a promise of eternity which means that we can laugh, or at least be joyful (in the midst of grieving), in the face of death.

 

All of God’s promises areYesin Christ. Jesus gives life and he gives joy. Seek him and don’t settle for a half-conversion but pray: “Jesus, save me this morning. I give you my all.” Amen.



[1] E. Stanley Jones, A Song of Ascents (Nashville and New York: Abingdon Press, 1968), 308–9.

[2] Ibid., 342.

[3] Ibid., 314.

[4] Ibid., 385.

[5] Ibid., 26–33.

[6] Ibid., 46.

[7] E. Stanley Jones, A Song of Ascents (Nashville and New York: Abingdon Press, 1968), 46–47.

[8] Ibid., 51–57.

[9] Ibid., 346.

[10] Ibid., 348.

[11] Ibid., 349.