Five addresses on His Standing, Power, Pathway, and Testimony; His Failure and Restoration.
1. His Standing Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:19-25; 13:11-16
2. His Power 2 Kings 2:6-22
3. His Pathway and Testimony 1 Samuel 17:48; 18:4; 31:1-6; 2 Samuel 1:11-27; John 20:11-18
4. His Failure Jeremiah 11. 1-13
5. His Restoration Zechariah 12:9-14; 13; Luke 22:31-34, 54-62; John 21:15-19
Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:19-25; 13:11-16.
When the Lord allowed this service to be taken up some time ago, we had a subject connected with the truth of God suitable to those who are young, and whose hearts perhaps (as in an infantine state) could not take in or understand the larger, fuller, and more blessed scope of the truth. But I shall seek now, as the Lord may help, both this evening and the other evenings we are together, to treat other branches and other parts of the same truth, starting, as far as we can, without any system, from where we left off, though I am purposing to-night to touch a little more on the foundations than I shall on succeeding evenings. My thought now — I name it at the outset — is to put before you simply what the place of a Christian is in heaven and on earth. I see some here who, I think, can hardly be ranked as young Christians; still I take it that if they are not young in that sense, I suppose they do not consider themselves beyond the simplest things that the Lord may give us to think of and meditate over this evening; and I do not desire to go beyond the very simplest truths and in the simplest way.
Now the first thing, and an important question for everyone of us, is, What is the place of a Christian in reference to God — before Him? It is important in this way, that if I have not a very distinct understanding of my place before God in heaven, I cannot have a distinct understanding of my place for God on earth. Herein consists the solemnity and importance of it.
I appeal to your consciences, beloved friends, and your souls to-night, Have you a distinct understanding and divine apprehension of what your place really is before God? Have your souls known it? That is the question. Be assured it is soul-work alone that can stand the test. You may say to me, "I understand advanced truth." Well, I have found persons who could say that; but their souls had not in the least been touched by it. What I am speaking of now is the simple fact of the soul's intelligent understanding by the Holy Ghost of this wonderful place before God. And be assured nothing is more marked or more distinct than when the soul has known the joy of it. It is a different thing altogether from a mere understanding of it in the head. Hence it is a simple one may say, "Yes, my soul knows that well, though I could not perhaps explain it." One can understand that. Indeed, the deeper anything is fixed in one's soul, the more difficult it is to explain it. The thing that I understand intellectually — if I am clear in my own understanding about it — I can put plainly before another person; but if it is a question of my soul, I do not find it so easy. I do not undervalue the intellectual understanding of the truth. God forbid I should be very sorry to slight or make little of it; but I do say, beloved friends, in these days nothing will stand except what is known in the soul. Unless our souls are really in these things, we shall not stand; it only requires a blast to dislodge us from the place. A passing pressure will rob us of the whole thing.
Now what we want is something that will wear, and something that will endure amid the confusion and pressure of a moment like this; and that is, a distinct and positive soul-apprehension by God the Holy Ghost of the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him. Oh, may God the Spirit give each soul here clearly to grasp it, and individually to taste the joy of possession!
As before God, what then is my place? The first thing I must learn (I see it in Scripture) is, that I am fit for God. I must be made meet as to my conscience for this place before God in heaven, and therefore it is distinct from my natural condition altogether. My conscience must be fitted by being purged. I must have a conscience entirely and completely fit for this wonderful place and portion before God. And it was to point out this I read those verses in Heb. 9. Note it well. The apostle, in the end of the chapter, speaks of three distinct appearings of Christ. First, of Christ appearing "in the end of the world," that is, the finishing, the consummation of all the periods of man's history preceding the work of Christ. He says, "Once" (not often, that is the contrast) "in the consummation of the ages" (or in the end of those periods that went before the cross) "hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." There is the work (I am only speaking of the work now) which gives me, the moment I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, an uncondemning conscience in the presence of the penetrating light of God, the holy God. I say that is the first thing. If I have not that, I have nothing. I must know complete clearance as to my conscience from every single thing that is on it. The first thing that God does in us is to put something on the conscience, and that by the work of the Holy Ghost. What is it? Death and judgment. He brings death and judgment home to the conscience. That is the first work in a man's soul. What is the purpose of it? In order that He may lead me in repentance and faith to that blessed One who accomplished the work which alone can take death and judgment off my conscience. We get the work here in the ninth chapter: "He appeared once in the consummation of the ages to put away sin" (and He has finished the work by which that will be accomplished) "by the sacrifice of Himself." How do I get the benefit of this? The moment I believe in Him I am entitled to know that as to my conscience I am as white as snow before God. That is the first great reality, and it is an all-important one for us all. It is the foundation of everything. And, beloved friends, it is, generally speaking, in the foundations that people are shaky; and it is here that Satan seeks to bring in weakness and doubt.
This then is the very beginning — the foundation. I have dwelt upon it before; I do so again without hesitation. The importance of it demands reiteration. And I beseech you (especially the young) to look to it that this is a distinct and settled matter in your conscience, that you can say before God, without having the smallest sense of presumption, "Thank God, there is not a single stain on my conscience." Can you say that honestly? Can you look up to God and say, "Thank God, I have no more conscience of sins"? On what ground can such certainty rest? Surely on this, that the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, that precious work applied to my conscience, gives me "boldness." It was because of this I read that verse in chap. 10, where we have the consequence, the divine conclusion, the divine summing up, as it were, of Christ's blessed finished work. We have then "boldness." Is it boldness to hope? Not a word of it. To expect that God will come and give us His blessing? No; but "to enter into the holiest." What a wonderful thing that is, if in realized power, in a person's soul! It is not that I crouch into the holiest as if I had no right there; it is not that I go, as it were, and apologize for my existence before God, as though I had no title. I enter there with boldness.
I am not speaking now, beloved friends, of anything beyond the blessed basis and foundation upon which everything rests. I have boldness, in consequence of this finished, perfect, infinitely glorious work, to enter into the holiest, and not in the least, as I said before, as if it were any presumption for me to go in, or as if it were derogatory to God that I should go in. There is nothing on God's side derogatory, or on my side presuming — mark that. It is righteous in God to accept me, and it is my glory to bow to that righteousness. That is the very foundation upon which the whole thing rests. I can go with boldness into the holiest, and I enter it in the character of a worshipper. That is the great truth that is brought out here. I am privileged to stand there as my place, in one aspect of it; and what am I there for? To ask for the forgiveness of my sins? I could not get there if I had not forgiveness first, blessed be His name! I have the blotting-out of all my sins before I could get there; and then I am there, adoringly to bow in the presence of the One who has cleared me from every stain. I go as a worshipper; I go there delighted to fall down at the feet of the One who has cleared everything out of the way, that He might Himself fill the scene, the place which hitherto had been occupied by the things which had kept me in bondage. That, I say, is the very foundation, the very first principle.
Let me enlarge on this in a practical way a little, and if possible more simply. It is all very well to talk about it, saying, "What a wonderful thing it is to go into the holiest!" and so forth; but now how is it practically with each of us as to it? That is the question. How is it with our consciences? Is there anything on them before God? I am not speaking now of the defilement any of us may have contracted as Christians; I am not speaking to backsliders (I have it laid on my heart to speak to them another evening); but I am speaking now simply as to the question of a perfect conscience. Is there anything on your conscience as to the question of your acceptance? Because if there be ever so little shade or speck of any kind upon the conscience, then be assured there is not clearness before God to understand the fulness of our place in heaven, and of the blessed privilege of our place on earth. May the Lord give anyone here who is not clear as to this to see the perfect, the infinite value of that "once-offered," perfect sacrifice, which clears the conscience from every spot and every stain, and puts us in divine acceptance in the very presence of God without a single misgiving, so that we are entitled to say, "Having boldness to enter into the holiest."
Now I pass from this, and for a moment take another and higher aspect of our place before God. Turn with me to another scripture — the end of the first, and the beginning of the second, chapter of Ephesians. Here is another aspect altogether of what our place before God is. What I have spoken of up to the present has been as to the truth that we are clear before God, and it is a great thing to be thus clear; but here we get something more than that. In this passage, in the end of Ephesians 1, we find the Lord Jesus Christ spoken of as the glorious Man whom God raised from the dead — the mighty power of God wrought so as to give Christ a place at His own right hand in the heavens. Now that is a most blessed thing for us, and I may say that, before ever we can say anything about our own blessing, whether in the aspect presented in Hebrews or Ephesians, we must see first of all what place Christ occupies; because it is a wonderful thing to know that our blessing is connected with all this wonderful glory of His person, as well as the fulness of His work. Here then in Ephesians we see Him as the glorious Man — this Blessed One as a Man raised out of death by the power of God. It is divine power working in Christ, who was dead — where we were dead in sins, but where He was for our sins. He had no need to be there for Himself; we were there because of our condition, "dead in trespasses and sins." Christ goes into death, takes His place there in grace, for God's glory and for us, and we get the power of God (v. 19), "the exceeding greatness of His power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far 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: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all;" that is to say, this Blessed One, who took His place in death for God's glory and for us, is raised up by the power of God — the "surpassing greatness of His power." Wonderful word it is! It wrought in Christ, the One who was dead for us. This mighty power of God works in order to give Christ a place at His own right hand in glory.
But you may ask why I dwell upon that. Because, in the second chapter, it is the same power that quickens a believer who was "dead in trespasses and sins," while he was in that state. The same power that raised up Christ out of the place of death, where He in grace went for us, raises us up out of the state of moral death that we were in, to give us a place in Christ, and by-and-by with Christ. What wonderful blessedness to know that — that it was no power short of the same surpassing greatness that wrought in that blessed, glorious Man when He travelled into death for God's glory and for our sins! That same power that raised Him up and set Him in glory works now for this purpose; namely, to give us a place in Christ, in the scene where He is. This is unfolded in Eph. that well-known scripture which I suppose is familiar to every one of us: "Quickened us together with Christ; raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." There can be no difficulty in seeing what a great advance this is upon what I have already spoken about, as set forth in Heb. 10. In that scripture I am shown how I can be cleared as to guilt, how the conscience is purged, and how we are made fit for the presence of God in light, fit for the holiness of God in the holiest of all; but when we come to Ephesians it is a new creation, a change of condition altogether; in Scripture language, "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" — to faith. I leave behind in death the condition I was in as to my lost estate, to get a new place altogether in a risen, glorified Saviour. This we find in Ephesians. In Heb. 9 and 10 we have these three great realities set forth as the result of Christ's work — immediate access to God, a purged conscience, an eternal redemption. The doctrine as to these is expounded in chap. 9, and chap. 10 is the application of them. The Holy Ghost first burdens the conscience; that is, He brings the sentence of death and judgment upon it. And it is not a light matter when a person's conscience is so burdened; no mere singing of a hymn will release one from that. When a person's conscience is under the sentence of death and judgment, as the result of divine conviction, nothing less than the soul's understanding the sufficiency and efficacy of the blood of God's Son can release that conscience from its pressure, and I regard not only as worthless, but as positively injurious and pernicious, any other sort of release save that; all beside is merely a temporary respite, ending in deeper bondage. I say, then, souls must know the infinite, wonderful efficacy of that blood which has met every claim of the throne of God in holiest majesty, and likewise meets all the terrible needs of our consciences.
Now in Ephesians, as I have said, we get to another thing entirely, even a complete lifting out of the condition we were in — "dead in trespasses and sins," not a single spark of spiritual life towards God. In Romans, up to chap. 5:12, it is guilt, sins; in Ephesians it is "dead in trespasses and sins;" and nothing less than a total and complete lifting out of this will do for us. What is the power for it? The same power — what a wonderful thing! — that quickened Christ when He was dead for us. And when I speak thus I hope no one will misunderstand me; when I speak of Christ as a dead man, I speak with all the reverence that becomes us in the presence of Him who was the mighty God, and who became a man, and as a man went into death for God's glory and for our sins. It is, then, the same power that quickened Christ, and raised Him out of that place where the grace and the love of His heart led Him, which quickens us, and gives us a new place altogether, a completely new place in Christ, who is risen; taking us out of the condition we were in as in Adam, and putting us into Christ, the risen Man, in the place where He is, as we have seen before. "Quickened together with Him, raised and seated together in heavenly places." Now is not that an immense thing for one's soul to get the sense of? Think of being now in Christ in heaven! Think of belonging to heaven now, with a righteousness, too, which is of God! "God's righteousness," as we find in that beautiful verse in 2 Corinthians (5:21): "He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." He goes into glory in order that His poor saints may have a place with Him, by the Spirit of God, in all the blessedness and glories that belong to Him, not keeping back from them a single thing except His own essential glory and Godhead. He associates us as in living union with Himself in everything except this. Is not that riches? Is not that wealth? This, then, is what God gives, and who but God could give it?
I would now point out to you as simply as I can how that was brought about. Let us trace the course of it, how it was this wonderful position described in Ephesians 2 has been won and secured. Just look at two scriptures; first, John 20. In the end of that chapter you will find the Lord Jesus Christ risen from the dead, and making these two blessed announcements, standing as it were on the platform of resurrection. Mark them well. The first is: "Peace be unto you." Wondrous words! Think of the deep, the infinite blessing involved in them. It is as if He said, "I have not left a single enemy standing, not a solitary foe to dispute your title to eternal serenity." Do you ask, "Where do you find that?" I reply, It is all in that word "peace." What is the meaning of peace, if not that? "Peace be unto you." There is no enemy to show, no account unmet; the very youngest can understand that. There is no one and nothing to stand against you. What wonderful grace! And oh, think what it cost Him to blot out that account! Think of what it cost the Son of God to dispose of that account for ever! Think of what He went through! What a night that was ere the morning broke, the morning of resurrection! He had been in the darkness of judgment, had gone down under the suffering of death, and thus He alone had obliterated and nailed to His cross everything that was against His people. Hence He stands, as here, in resurrection glory, and announces the fact, "There is nothing against you;" every claim is disposed of. "Peace unto you." But there is more than that; and hence what He says on this resurrection morning to Mary Magdalene, who still clung to Him, in death, as in life, her all: "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." I am not only out of death myself, but I have got others out with me. Who were they? "Go to my brethren." You never get such a word as that until now. Up to this you read of Him alone; solitary on the mountain tops and in the valleys of this poor world, wherever you search the gospels, it is Christ always alone, never having as yet brought anyone to His own standing before God; but now He can say, "Go to my brethren." And it is not only that, but in virtue of all that He had borne and secured there is identity of relationship; hence, "My Father and your Father, my God and your God." Blessed fact, precious reality this! How marvellous the way we reach Ephesians 2; for I am seeking to conduct you (as the Lord helps me) simply to Ephesians 2; and here is the great starting-point. It is a wonderful step, but even this is not everything. Who can adequately describe the blessedness of seeing Christ out of death, and others out with Him, on totally new ground? Yet we want something more than that; for we have not as yet union with Christ. I say it is a wonderful thing to think of — relationship; to think of His Father our Father, His God our God. But that is not union.
Now if you will turn to another scripture, viz., Acts 2, you will find the next link in the chain. This blessed One not only had proclaimed peace in virtue of the full accomplishment of His victory, not only had announced to Mary Magdalene that He has in virtue of it "fellows" — His "brethren," but we find more, even that He goes up into glory, ascends into the heavens. Hitherto I have only spoken of His resurrection, and what He said on earth after His resurrection; for He was forty days on earth after He rose from the dead; and those days must have been wonderful, when the risen Lord was seen of His disciples ere He ascended to glory. But now He has gone up; and as certainly as He goes up, the Holy Ghost comes down. And what heart does not feel the all-importance of the Holy Ghost come down? Those then who were by Christ's victory and triumph brought into relationship with God, even His God and His Father, are now, by the same Spirit that dwells in Christ, united to Him in heaven. And thus we reach Ephesians 2. Let me repeat it: not only have we peace and relationship with God, but we are one with Christ. The Holy Ghost came down and baptized believers into one body, thus uniting them, not only to the Lord Jesus Christ, the head in heaven, but to each other, as members of one body on this earth. So that every believer in whom the Holy Ghost dwells is, by that blessed Spirit, one with Christ in heaven. And oh! what heart can conceive the wonders of that? Let me ask, Is that a light matter to think of or know? If we have the Spirit of God dwelling in us (and may there not be a single soul here that is not in the conscious sense of it), is it not a marvellous reality? What can you conceive equal in importance to the greatness of it? To have the sense that I am one with the risen, glorified Man — in the place where He is; that He and we are one! Beloved, we hear of it, and we speak of it to one another, but have our souls really grasped the immensity of it? Never can we forget (thank God, never) the blessing our souls received when first we knew it. The moment when it first dawned on our souls that we were one with Christ in heaven can never be forgotten by us. It is a crisis moment in a person's history. Blessed time when first the soul opens — like a flower to the sun — to the truth that Christ and we His own are one, and for ever! And though we are here in feebleness and weakness, and He is on high in heavenly glory, yet the day of glory, bearing its brightness far and near, is coming, when He shall to a wondering universe display that He with us is one. This alone can tarnish all below, giving you enough and more than enough in Him. How different this is from tearing yourself, as it were, out of what the heart clings to. I see some casting more than a longing look behind them, showing how little they are possessed with this unspeakable reality — one with Christ in heaven. When this is tasted, there is nothing in this defiling scene good enough for us; yet we are satisfied, and we lie down in pastures of tender grass. May the Lord give each one to taste somewhat of it. "Faith cometh by hearing;" that is rich comfort to us all. Oh, may the sense of this union, if never before, come to you as you hear of it to-night! and as the word of God sets it before us simply, may the Lord give each heart here to taste it!
Having thus completed that part of our subject, viz., "our place before God," now let me say a little upon the second part, "our place for God on earth;" and if time does not permit us to pursue it as fully as its importance and solemnity demand, we shall resume it, if the Lord will, another time. If we turn to Hebrews 12 and 13, we shall find what our true place on earth is, and I think exactly the contrast truth to our being "seated," namely, "running with patience the race set before us." In Ephesians it is "seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus;" in Hebrews it is "running." Running is the converse of being "seated;" "seated" in the heavenlies, "running" on earth; and we are to run with "endurance," with "patience," the race set before us. If we think of our place before God, we are seated in the heavenlies, not only clear, in perfect acceptance, but in union; but if we think of our place for God on earth, I find it expressed in Heb. 12 as a race, and in Heb. 13 as going forth to Him (Jesus) without the camp. Not settling down and looking for some harbour of refuge here, not expecting to find some comfortable place wherein to pass the rest of our life, but running; so that the path of faith through this world is a race. Everything here, beloved friends, opposes; and we are here simply to express this new motion, as it were, this new action in this world; we are here to leave behind us the whole thing. This is the way of a runner: he leaves everything behind him, good and bad alike; his face is towards the goal and prize, and the course is increasingly behind his back, and every step he takes leaves the course more behind him.
Then in Heb. 13 we find another thing. I refer to the 13th verse. Observe, there is one powerful word there which I earnestly desire to press upon you. Oh, may each heart weigh the solemnity, of these two words in that verse so strikingly significant, characteristic, and expressive of our place here; viz., "His reproach!" These are solemn words, "His reproach!" And oh, beloved, how different this from our thoughts! A person to whom is given the opportunity from God of bearing "His reproach" now is wonderfully honoured. Eternity will never supply such a moment as this to any of us. We shall reign with Christ in heaven; but it is only on earth we can suffer with Him. Suppose one to be so circumstanced that because of his or her place and calling for Christ and with Christ, because of that blessed place before God in heaven, and because sent here to maintain it practically (see John 17:18), such an one may have to turn the back on what they were until now connected with, and that at cost and shame, they know a little of what "His reproach" means. How blessed to think I am set here to be like a tree rooted in heaven, and the blossoms and buds all here upon earth; and that there is nothing here save what hinders the maturity of that fruit; everything is against it, not a solitary influence belonging to this world as such that is not against you, either as running, or bearing Christ's reproach. Everything on this earth is lowering in its tendency, and deteriorating to us as new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a good thing to find out that I can receive no help from this world; hindrances in abundance, and any amount of opposition on all sides; but no help, no cheer, no support, no succour. Everything here has the tendency to keep us down, and prevent our progress; and yet we are to be "like a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." (Jer. 17:8.) Thus you perceive we are to be here as evergreens amidst the frosts and snows of this wintry world, racing through it, and bearing His reproach in it.
I would here mention two things, beloved friends, two exercises, which made up the history of the children of Israel during their wilderness journey, as I conceive strikingly significant of our position on earth. What were they? One was sustainment, instance the manna; the other was resistance, instance Amalek. (See Ex. 16; 17.) These, I believe, are the two great features of the wilderness — sustainment and resistance. And must it not be the same with us? Hence, if these two things do not go on together, it is hard to see how we are occupying the place God has called us to. If we are not sustained from heaven, and resisting on this earth, how are we in any true sense standing for God here? May the Lord awaken in each heart the sense of this. May He Himself show you that there is nothing here to help you, but that you must derive all your sustainment from outside, and that it is only as you are so sustained you can resist. There are two opposite forms of hindrance turning aside at this present time many of God's children; they are attractions and afflictions. There are some who reckon that the afflictions of the path are too great for them, that it is too narrow; whilst others succumb to the attractions, the pleasures of sin, which are sweet to them, and they are caught by them, they cannot go on in this terrible resistance. The atmosphere of this age induces slumber; they become heavy with sleep; it is indulged, but it is the sleep of death
But who can tell the exceeding and superlative excellency, yea, blessedness, of having the eyes opened to a scene where everything is perfect, and where Christ is in all His beauty and glory as the eternal solace of the heart, so that we are free to turn our back upon the best things here, and to know too that, because one with Christ, there is really nothing on earth that we desire beside. Do you say that is high ground? True; but it is God's ground, and that is everything. Was there anything here for Christ? Beloved friends, we are sprung from Him (John 12:24) as well as one with Him. You may say it is a wonderful thing. Truly it is so; I do not deny it. It is the most wonderful reality the heart can conceive, and I do pray this evening that our hearts may get a fresh and renewed sense of it. I know how feeble one feels — well may we say,
"Cold my warmest thought" —
and the greater the thing is, alas! often the more feebly one feels it; but the Lord can give our hearts to taste of it, at any rate, and I pray He may give each one here at this time such a taste (a renewed taste, if you have had it before) of what a wealthy place He has led us to, not only clearing us from everything, but making us one with Him who has cleared us, that our hearts may say, "Lord Jesus, it is our joy to walk thy path here; joy to bear thy reproach." Oh that we might be like Moses, whose parents saw in him a beautiful child, one who was fair to God! They did not look at him with natural eyes, but with the eyes of faith; hence "they did not heed the king's command." And when that child grew up, the faith of the father and mother was honoured in the child; and hence we read, "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." (Heb. 11:24-26.) Observe well these three things — he refused, he chose to suffer affliction, he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than Egypt's treasures.
The Lord, by His Spirit, grant that there may be at least a few here to-night who, like Moses, will refuse. It is not, as one has often said oneself, "these things will drop off;" you must refuse them. He refused what even Providence gave him. I dare say there are many here who cannot trace up what they have got so distinctly to Providence; but he could, and he refused it, and he chose the suffering, trying, afflicting path, rather than "the pleasures of sin for a season."
The Lord grant that our hearts may prove the reality of it; and as He has revealed to us far more than Moses knew in his day, our souls may take hold of it by the Spirit, so that we may accept the path in simple devotedness of heart, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake!
"And with Him shall my rest be on high,
When in holiness bright I sit down,
In the joy of His love ever nigh,
In the peace that His presence shall crown.
"Till then 'tis the path Thou hast trod
My delight and my comfort shall be;
I'm content with Thy staff and Thy rod,
Till with Thee all Thy glory I see."