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Friday, June 5, 2020

Editor’s Note: Pastor Scott Peterson is sharing daily devotions written by some of his favorite authors. These current devotions are written by Arndt Halvorson on the writings of P.T. Forsyth. Their biographies and any notes by Pastor Scott are listed at the end of the devotion.

With Us All the Way

by Arndt Halvorson

“The more Christ changes the more he is the same. Stability is not stiffness. Jesus, ‘the same yesterday, today and forever,’ is not a dead identity, a monument that we leave behind, but persistent personality that never ceases to open upon us. Our real and destined eternity goes round by Nazareth to reach us”

–P.T. Forsyth

P. T. Forsyth concludes with the words, “He is born again in each soul that is born anew.” He has written elsewhere, “Each soul is the first to be.” This is true because of the changeless nature of Jesus our Lord.

Jesus speaks to each one of us by name. We are not interchangeable parts of a giant machine. The Church is not a collection of robots. We are not evaluated by our sameness, but our authenticity. We are competing, in life’s race, with ourselves, not with others. The mark of any true champion is that he/she says, “I can be and do better than I have done,’ not, “I am better than others.”

So Jesus adjusts to our individual needs, one by one. To some he is stern: “Sin no more.” To some he is tender: “Come to me for rest.” To some he is didactic: “The kingdom of God is like this.” Peter’s big sin was that he violated his own God-given name–“The Rock”– that he sinned more grievously than others.

How wonderful this is! Jesus is not a dictator, demanding uniform responses from all of us. Nor is he an anarchist, letting us all do as we please. He is a savior, reaching out for each of us in our uniqueness. He is a friend, who walks with us all the way. He is the same in the way he treats us. Each of us, regardless of what we have done or not done, is precious in his sight.

A mother understands this. She sees her children as individuals, and so is often surprised when someone says, “They are just alike.” She knows better–she knows that one responds to pressure and one buckles under pressure, for instance, and treats them accordingly.

Our biggest sin just may be sinning against such mercy. Jesus breaks fresh upon us each day–with a renewed hope and a renewed vision.

“Hence what we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?…’ Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:6,8)

Peter Taylor Forsyth was a theologian, pastor, and educator whose fiery preaching and provocative writing stirred Great Britain from 1874 until his death in 1921. For a number of years after his death he was forgotten, but since 1940 he has been “rediscovered” and has been studied by many of today’s church leaders and theologians. Born and educated in Scotland, he combines Scottish toughness and gentleness, practicality and mysticism, with an openness to the world outside–mainly German, Scandinavian and French thought. Since he was a pastor for 25 years, he does not write to systematize his thought, but to apply it to our daily lives. Thus, his theology has a personal “bite” which gets us involved as participants, not spectators. His writings seem current, addressing the great questions of our time–such issues as authority, how to read the Bible, prayer, the cross and its significance and the call to holiness by a Holy God.

Arndt L. Halvorson (1915 – 2006) was my preaching professor at Luther Seminary where he taught homiletics (preaching) for 24 years.  When Arndt dressed-up he wore cowboy cut suits, with a string tie and cowboy boots.  He had a passion for the gospel and his bluntness in communication was engaging.  One day in my preaching lab Arndt said, “Some of the best sermons I ever heard were preached without notes.  And, all of the worst sermons I ever heard were preached without notes.”  –Pastor Scott