The Testimony of the Lord (2)

2 Timothy

A few weeks ago his Majesty the King presented new colours to the Guards regiments. In entrusting those colours to them he told them that they spoke of the glorious history of the Guards and were an emblem for the present and the future of the soldier's honour and the honour of the regiments. I want to speak of the testimony of the Lord as the colours entrusted to us, but they are not regimental colours, as though only a section of the army of the Lord could claim them; there is nothing divisional or sectarian about the testimony of the Lord. The colours are the Royal Standard, and every loyal soldier rallies to them, rejecting all others.

It is the testimony of the Lord. I must stress that first of all. What does the title mean? It means His authority, His absolute rights over us; He is sovereign Lord. And we are not faithful to the colours if we are not owning that and carrying it out in practical living. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." That means open and definite subjection to His will, and rallying to the colours. It was what Saul of Tarsus did when he cried: "Lord, what will Thou have me to do?" But who would not be subject to Him whose love for us surpasses all our knowledge and whose will and way for us is our greatest blessing?

The testimony of the Lord implies ignorance of Him in the place where it is raised, and more, it implies hostility and opposition. I do not think it will be necessary to talk of the testimony of the Lord in the Millennium, for then His glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, and no man will need to say to his neighbours, know the Lord; but now we are in a world that hated Him and that said "We will not have this Man to reign over us." It is in such a world that the testimony is raised, and unless we understand that we shall miss the honour of playing our full part in the great conflict.

These colours, the Royal Standard, were unfurled by the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, for He was sent from the Father to testify of Jesus the Lord, and His work in this respect began on that great day. And if I may pursue my figure there are quartered upon the Standard, a cross, an empty grave, a crown of glory and a universal throne. It is all Christ.

When King Edward presented the colours to his Guards, he spoke of the glories of the past that were inscribed upon them, glories won by the regiments themselves upon many a far-flung battlefield. But upon these colours it is not the glories of the soldiers of the Lord that appear. His glories only are inscribed there, the testimony of the Lord is all concerning Himself, it is what He is and has achieved, and might all be summed up in three sentences.
He has been here.
He is not here.
He is coming back again.

He has been here. What brought Him here? We know that it was love. Love for sinful men. It was this that brought the Saviour from above to die at Calvary. That is most certainly part of the testimony; but there is more. He came into the world as having supreme rights over it and over all men. When God brought the First-begotten into the world, He said, Let all the angels of God worship Him, and if angels, then men surely. But what happened? He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came to His own and His own received Him not. Yet He did not turn back; He set His face as a flint and He fulfilled His mission. The world saw a full and blessed manifestation of the Father; before its very eyes the Father's Name and character were declared, and it saw and hated both Jesus and His Father. The world has no cloak, no excuse for its sin.

He is not here. Because the world rejected Him, He is not here. The builders of this world's greatness are building without Him. They could find no room for Him when He was here — there was room for Caesar and Herod and Pilate, room for priests and Pharisees, room for publicans and sinners, but no room for Jesus — "Away with Him," "Not this Man but Barabbas." So they cast Him out. The cross was the extent and the evidence of their guilt, but it also became the measure and the manifestation of the love of God. The cross of Jesus testifies to the triumph of God's love over all man's hatred, of righteousness established, of holiness vindicated, of salvation for sinners and of eternal glory for God. Yes, to all this we bear witness. He is not here because the world rejected Him.

He is coming back again. His grave is empty. God has raised Him up from the lowest depths of death and crowned Him with glory and honour in the highest place in heaven. The crown is the answer to the cross. God hath made this same Jesus whom men crucified both Lord and Christ, He has exalted Him to be a Prince and a Saviour, NOW to give repentance and remission of sins to men, soon to come as the Judge of quick and dead. He is coming back again. Once He came in meekness and lowliness of heart, He was in the midst of men and ever at their disposal, night and day. He was accessible to the weakest and the worst, but He is coming back again in power and glory, for His throne is to be a universal throne. His foes are to be made His footstool. The first man with his pride and sin and struggle for a glory that he cannot attain to, must give place to the second Man who will fill the earth with the glory of God. This is also part of the testimony of the Lord, and it is not more pleasing to men than any other part of it. Where is the promise of His coming? they ask. Our answer is, "He command us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead." "God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because He hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained, whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead."

This is the testimony of the Lord, the Royal Standard; the cross upon it speaks of love, infinite love. The empty grave tells of a great victory, the power of death itself is broken. The crown of glory proclaims the Father's full approval of that holy and sacrificial death, the universal throne yet to be declares the rights of Jesus to the supreme place, above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.

To Paul, our great Apostle, the colours were entrusted, and with what valour and zeal he bore them in continual conflict with the foe from city to city and land to land; but now in our Epistle his day was done. He had fought the good fight, he had finished his course, he had kept the faith and he hands on the colours to his son Timothy with instructions to hand them on in turn to "faithful men."

Are we faithful men? Faithful men rally to the colours, they uphold them, they stand for Christ, they do not speak of themselves but of Him; their doings and their cause are not their theme, but His glory; what He has achieved, and His rights. A faithful man will stand for Christ even if he stands alone. And, remember, service is individual; the Lord whom we serve has supreme rights over us. "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men." The effort to balance your conscience and service between the Lord's will and the notions of some of your brethren will make a coward of you. He only has the right to command us, ours not to reason why, ours but to do, and if necessary, die. It has been tritely and rightly said, "You are to serve your brethren but they are not your masters." But there is most desirable and blessed fellowship in service. Mr. Brown has pointed out that Paul delighted to speak of His yoke-fellows, his fellow-labourers, his fellow-soldiers; if we are faithful men we shall rejoice when we find our brethren faithful to the colours, we shall rejoice if Christ is preached, and grieve even to tears over those who are the enemies of the cross of Christ. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to unite the soldiers of Jesus Christ in holy zeal for His glory, and it is He that imparts the power that enables any to be faithful to the testimony.

Now a spirit in keeping with the testimony of the Lord has been given to us, and apart from this spirit we shall fail in the conflict and be deserters from the colours, "Be not thou ashamed of the testimony of the Lord" wrote Paul. The testimony is in reproach in the world, men dislike it, some hate it, the devil is set against it. It is not the fashion to be zealous for the Lord and His truth, and we being what we are, are very liable to be ashamed of the testimony, we shall be unless the spirit of power and love and of a sound mind prevails in our lives. This spirit is not the spirit of fear or cowardice, it is the spirit of courage. But what is it that makes us so cowardly so often? It seems to me that that is a profitable question to ask. Is not the first and foremost thing self-interest, the thought of self and how I shall be affected if I stand boldly for the truth as to Christ?

The great warning in the New Testament is Simon Peter. He went down from Jerusalem to Antioch and for a while was faithful to the colours. The cross of Christ had obliterated all distinction between Jew and Gentile, having brought both down into the place of judgment, but it had secured salvation for both, and from both all who had believed had been raised to a new life by Christ's resurrection, and the Holy Spirit who had come down from the crowned Christ in heaven had united them in one body. Simon Peter acknowledged all that, and though born a Jew, he lived, as was right, in fellowship with the Gentiles who were in Christ. But when certain brethren came down from Jerusalem from James, he ceased to think of Christ and what He had wrought and thought of Simon. What will they say of me in Jerusalem? What will brother James think of me? And that thought of self made him a traitor to the colours, and it seemed as though they were to be dragged in the mire or fall into the hands of the foe. But there was one man who was not a traitor, and he held aloft the Standard, withstanding the coward Simon to the face, as he cried, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." What did he mean? He meant my reputation, what others think of me. What has that to do with it? I am crucified with Christ. All the reputation that ever I had, and all in which I prided myself, only made me an enemy of Christ, but it is all gone, and I am gone in the cross of Christ, henceforward it is not Paul but Christ. What did it matter to such a man as that what they thought of him in Jerusalem, or anywhere else? He was set for maintaining the colours, for standing true to the testimony; Christ and not Paul was everything to him. He was "a faithful man," a true Standard bearer.

Yes, SELF is a subtle power. It makes cowards of us. Crucifixion with Christ is the only way of deliverance from it. I remember when a very young Christian staying in the home of Mr. Westcott's parents.

Upon the wall of the bedroom I occupied there was a card upon which were lines that made a great impression on me. I spent half the night learning them and they have often spoken to me since. I have them here:

"Oh, send me forth, my Saviour,
Oh, send me for Thy glory.
Regarding not the praise of man,
And trampling on the fear of man
And fighting for Thy glory.

There is a man that often stands
Between me and Thy glory.
His name is self,
My carnal self.
Self-seeking self,
Stands twixt me and Thy glory.

O mortify him, mortify him,
Put him down, my Saviour.
Exalt Thyself, lift high
The banner of Thy cross,
And in its folds
Conceal Thy standard bearer."

May that spirit and desire be ever ours, for we may depend upon it. It is always self that makes us cowards in the fight.

But God hath not given to us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind. That is not the Holy Spirit exactly, but it could not be apart from His indwelling. The indwelling Spirit imparts to us this three-fold character, apart from which we cannot stand in the evil day. It is the life and spirit of Jesus Christ in us. I have no doubt that we need power and love and the sound mind in every sphere of Christian life. Power without love might be ruthless, and love without the sound mind might be weakness. But I would emphasize each of them in its own special sphere. We need the sound mind in our individual lives. What is the meaning of it? It is a wise mind, a discreet mind. A brother was telling me today, as we discussed it, that it was a healthy mind, and I quite agree with that. The natural mind, always dominated by a sinful self-interest in one form or another, is not a sound or healthy mind; it cannot wisely discriminate between good and evil. The Gadarenes came out of their city to see what had happened to the demoniac whose name was Legion.

They found him, "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind." You could not have a better illustration of a sound mind than that. He sat at the feet of Jesus as a disciple, and went at His bidding to bear witness in the City to the delivering power of the Lord. It is the touch of the great Physician and His word that heals the mind. The sound mind thinks soberly; the man who has it is not puffed up by his knowledge; he puts Christ first, and considers for His glory and not for his own interest.

The spirit of love brings in others, the hermit cannot exercise that blessed Christian grace, it is as we move about among men that it is called for, and very specially as we move among our brethren. And in this we have the Lord as our pattern "I am among you as he that serveth" He said to His disciples. In the spirit of love we shall be very considerate of one another and shall serve and not strive in a selfish way for pre-eminence, for the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing, even the opposers.

Yet gentleness and meekness are not weakness, as some might suppose, they are allied to true power, and we shall need this spirit of power if we are to stand fast and hold aloft the colours. We must not forget that the devil is against us and we must not underrate his power and subtlety. We are no match for him if we face him in our own wisdom or strength, but neither is he any match for the Lord and the power of His might, and we are strong, and only strong in the Lord. You remember the words of the poet Cowper:

"Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees."

This power can only operate in dependence upon God. In this greatly favoured land we have not now to face such murderous mobs as often surrounded such a man as George Whitfield. He never flinched because the spirit of power was in him, and when on one such occasion, his wife stood behind him and cried in his ear, "Play the man of God, George," the spirit of power was in the woman. And the Christian women are needed, they can be of the greatest possible help in maintaining the colours and witnessing for Christ. "Help those women which laboured with me in the gospel" wrote Paul. We are not menaced by violence now, it I might help us if we were, but even so, and perhaps more so, the spirit of power, is needed. In the presence of increasing indifference to the claims of the Lord in the world, and the growing contempt of the truth in the professing church, we need the spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind, apart from this spirit we shall be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord and of Paul, His prisoner, and make a cowardly surrender.

Not without a reason does Paul bind up his name with the testimony of the Lord. We must take notice of him in relation to it; we need to study his manner of life as well as his doctrine, and learn what the Lord can do in and with and through a man wholly devoted to Him. But Paul would not have us astonished at his labours and sufferings for Christ's sake. If he could speak to us tonight he would say, Why should you be amazed at my devotion to Christ If you had seen Him as I have seen Him you would be as I am: if you had heard Him as I have heard Him you would follow Him as I do; if you knew Him and His love that surpasseth all knowledge as I do you would hold nothing back from Him, you would lay yourself and your all for time and eternity at His feet, and be wholly and for ever at His disposal. Do not be amazed at my love for my Saviour, but be amazed at His love for me, and for you. Say with me "the Son of God, loved me and gave Himself for me," and you will be amazed that ever you hesitated to be wholly for Him, you will be amazed that ever an idol rivalled His place in your heart, that ever you permitted self to make you ashamed of His testimony before men.

May the Spirit of God keep us continually wondering at the love and glory of Jesus, our Saviour, for if we cease to wonder we cease to make progress in the knowledge of Himself and the blessedness of His testimony, and we cease to worship.