Dr. Arnold Cook




Dr. Arnold L. Cook

“We are the sum of all the people we have known.”  In 48 years of ministry I have very few regrets.  But there are two persons I wish I had known soon. 

Our father was always there.  But none of us eight children really knew him.  He communicated to us through our mother.  We all knew there was something wrong for Dad. His language was bad and had a short fuse. He seemed like a bitter man.

As a 42 years old missionary I was listening to Bill Bright of Campus Crusades speaking on a transferable concept.  Most of his message on love I had known.  But he caught my attention with his final point:  “You can learn to love unlovely people by “faith.”  He illustrated this “powerful truth of loving by faith” in the healing of broken relationships.  God said:  “Arnold this is my answer for your broken relationship with your Father.”

I took the first step on my knees that night.  I committed myself in prayer to “loving Dad by faith—faith alone.  Later I took step two: I communicated my love by letter. It felt strange saying for the first time, “Dad I love you.”  Then my parents came to visit us. As we met together, I realized God had performed two miracles.  He had turned me heart back to Dad, and He had turned dad’s heart to me. “Dad, I said, I’ve been a missionary talking to many people about their souls, but have never asked you where you stand.”  Dad opened his heart that day for the first time in decades. Shared about his godly parents. How he was baptized and had memorized Scripture as a young man.  He assured me he was trusting Christ as his saviour.  Then this tragic confession:  “But Arnold I have never been able beat the problem of “bitterness.” As the only son he had been promised the farm in his parents will. Somehow the will was changed.  He never got the farm. Bitterness took over his life for the next 35 years. 

It was the final detail of his life that blew me away.  “Arnold before I married, God told me I would have a family, and that one of my children would be a missionary!”  I was that child!  I was 42 and my father was 74 and I never knew that!

Dad lived ten more years.  Our relationship was vastly different.  I wish I had known Dad sooner.  God could have used me to release him from 20 years of that bitterness. 

Notice the last promise of the Old Testament? “He (God) will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers . . .” (Mal. 4:6).

I received Christ as my Saviour at age eleven.  We were attending a dying church.  Thanks to our parents they moved us to a more alive church. I was struggling greatly to live my Christian life in my teens. It was a vicious circle of sinning, confessing and trying harder.  I thought that was “the normal Christian life.”

At age 20 some Alliance young people invited me to a Youth Conference. For the first time I heard an Alliance pastor.  He spoke on the “Four Fold Gospel.”  Christ our Saviour I knew.  I was a Christian.  Christ our coming King—I had heard about the second coming.  But Christ our healer was new.  Never heard of Christ our Sanctifier and I did not know that the person of the Holy Spirit existed. Much less that He had been sent to live the life Christian in me.  I left the altar that night with these words ringing in my heart:  “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16).

I was filled with the Holy Spirit. His presence came over me like waves of joy.  He empowered me to live a victorious Christian life, not a sinless life.  He began directing my life into ministry.  I joined a revived Alliance church in Owen Sound, Ontario.  That church marked for life with four enduring truths:  1) the power of corporate prayer; 2) the powerful truth of the Spirit filled life; 3) a dynamic evangelism through the church body, and 4) a passion for missions. God called me into ministry through a call into missions.

I consider my teenage years a write off in terms of Christian witness.  My life was described by Paul in Romans seven:  “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (7:15).  I had the idea that you receive Christ and then just tough it. You try to resist temptation, fail, confess and then you try harder.

No one told me that aspects of our “old nature of sin and self” continue in our lives.  My impression was that Christ just died on the cross “for my sins” giving me salvation.  I never heard the other truth of Christ’s death on the cross.  Paul asks in Romans:  “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (6:1). The answer I heard as a teenager was: “Yes.”  But Paul says: “By no means.  We died to sin . . . .   For we know that our old self was crucified with him, so that sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (6:2-6). Christ died also for our sanctification—the experience of becoming holy people—being set apart from sin unto God to be victorious Christians.

I wished I had known the person of the Holy Spirit as a teen.  God could have used me.

But I’m thankful He found me at age twenty.  He launched me into 50 years of ministry.  I love sharing this message of “the two trips to the cross.”  On our first trip, we see Christ dying for our sins, “the just for the unjust to bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18). Salvation!

But on the second trip we see we also died with Him (Rom. 6:1-6). With Paul we can say:

 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

The majority of  North American evangelicals in the 21st century assume that becoming a Christian launches them automatically on the pathway to holiness. Today the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent to finish the building of the Church, has become the most forgotten person of the God-head. Hence we struggle with sin and self and never find our way back to the cross a second time to die to self and be filled with the Spirit. This launches us on the ramp leading to holiness.  “Without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).  

This “deeper life” truth has been the hall mark of the Christian and Missionary Alliance since it birth.  Without its recovery our days are numbered and our demise is imminent.