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Tuesday,  June 3, 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.

Use Your Freedom

by Arndt Halvorson

“The living God is the basis of the living church. We need a God as near to us as life is. We must have a searching and a shaping God. This we have in the son of the living God. The living God alone can make us living persons; the mighty God alone can make us mighty people; the loving God alone can make us consecrated human beings”  –P.T. Forsyth

–P.T. Forsyth

Sometimes God seems so far away, so uninvolved that our prayers seem to hit the ceiling and bounce back into our hands. If God is not dead, as some theologians claimed a few years ago, he does seem to be so remote, so unattainable that we may as well forget about him. When this happens, our religious life becomes a preoccupation with the “dead letter of the law” and is shaped by rules. The strange result of this is that we often feel we can redefine the rules to fit our needs, and thus the rules cease to be rules.

But Jesus was resurrected. He lives, and because he lives, we too shall live. When we pray we are dealing with a living God, and this places our lives in his hands, not in ours. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we discover that God was here first. As we seek for God, we find that he has been seeking us all along. Because he lives, nothing is predictable. He is everywhere, working in human hearts.

God lives-that is, he is a personality, not an idea. God lives to reshape us into our initial glory-his image. Because God lives among us and in us through his Holy Spirit, anything can happen The constant miracle is that we are being transformed to live as trusting children, not rebellious runaways.

Because he lives, we live–in the fullest sense of the word. We are empowered to make right choices. We are re-created to love the good and hate the bad. We are even given the ability to walk the second mile, to give our cloak, and to so limit our intoxicating freedom that we refrain from anything which may tempt another. We walk in his freedom all the way.

“You may know how one ought to behave in the household of God which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15).

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