Acquaintance with our Saviour

From a letter,

"A sentence in one of the addresses impressed me very much; it was, 'God's great desire is to make us LIVINGLY ACQUAINTED WITH OUR SAVIOUR WHERE HE IS.' Now I believe that everyone who knows the Lord at all, wants to know Him better and better, to come into real living touch with Him and to feel the warmth of His love. The only means to this end I know of is the written Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit, but sometimes we read the Word and do not get that living touch we long for. I read in the Gospels the beautiful story of the Lord's life on earth, His love and compassion, His grace and His patience, and then I think of Him where He is, but that does not seem to bring Him near enough. IS IT MENTAL EFFORT THAT IS REQUIRED FOR THIS ACQUAINTANCE WITH OUR SAVIOUR WHERE HE IS?" — Young Believer.

No, acquaintance with our Saviour where He is is not achieved by mental effort, nor necessarily by reading of His life in the Gospels, though we cannot neglect this if we are to know Him. But acquaintance with Him is much more than knowing something about Him; it is knowing Himself, and this must be where He is and as He is, for it is a present and personal knowledge. We arrive at it by a spiritual journey, which may be long or short according to our purpose of heart and appreciation of Himself and His love.

We began by learning that He had done great things for us, our deep need as sinners made us glad to hear about Him. It was good news to us when we heard that He was our substitute when He suffered on the cross, and that there He put away even our sins by the sacrifice of Himself. The relief was great, our burdened consciences were purged, we were forgiven, and had peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and we were very grateful to Him for it all. But there was more than that in the gospel story. It told us that it was His great love that made Him die for us, and a love for Himself, deeper than our gratitude for blessings received, awoke in our hearts, so that even though we have not seen Him we love Him, and while still not seeing Him, yet believing, we rejoice in Him. But these two things, faith and love in and for the Saviour, do not spring up in the mind but in the heart, they are not the result of mental effort or growth but they are the fruit of the Holy Spirit's work within us.

But if we have not seen Him we long to, and if He has won our hearts by His love we want to know Him. Knowing about Him is not enough, nor will a mere acquaintance with Him satisfy us, the word is too cold to describe that for which the heart longs; nothing short of an intimacy of love without distance or reserve is the goal of love's desire. But this must be with Him where He is, not a looking back to where and what He was — though without the knowledge of the past we could not know Him as He is — nor a looking forward to where and what He will be though without that our knowledge of Him would be faulty — but a present and continuous intercourse with Himself, and that as to His present position, activities and love. It is well expressed in the well-known lines —

"Lord Jesus, make Thyself to me
A living, bright reality
More present to faith's vision keen
Than any outward object seen,
More dear, more intimately nigh
Than e'en the dearest earthly tie."

To that we would add that the Spirit of Truth which proceeds from the Father has come from heaven to dwell within us that the desire may become a realized fact.

But where is He? "Whither is thy beloved gone, thou fairest among women? Whither is thy beloved turned aside? and we will seek Him with thee" (S. of Sol. 6:1). Yes, where? He is not here, for His life was taken from the earth; and the meaning of this is not always readily learnt. The Ethiopian learnt it. He was reading those words, than which none can make a greater appeal to the Christian heart: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb dumb before his shearers, so He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His judgment was taken away: and who shall declare His generation? for His life is taken from the earth." From that Scripture Philip preached to him Jesus, and as he listened to the story of the utter humiliation, the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus, the glory of this world lost its lustre and faded from his eyes, and another Object filled his vision — Jesus, whose life was taken from the earth — and he cried, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" He would follow Him, he would turn his back on the world that had rejected him, he would be identified with Him an His death as far as this world was concerned; even self and all its former aspirations must go in death. He was eager for it, nothing must stand in his way. It was as though he said — indeed, he did say by this act: Good-bye, world, Jesus for me! Good-bye, old life of sin and sinful ambitions, Jesus for me! Good-bye, self and selfish hopes, Jesus for me! That I believe is the first true step to living acquaintance with Christ where He is.

But how could we surrender the life of sin and self, which every true disciple must do (Luke 4:27), if we did not know that we have a new life! We have been born again into a new life, it is the gift of God to us, and the Object of the new life is Christ, and it must seek Him wherever He may be. He is not on earth but in heaven, a real, living Man there. Stephen being full of the Holy Ghost looked up steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus (Acts 7:55). And Saul of Tarsus heard His voice from that same glory (chap. 9). And we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour. On earth He was crucified, in heaven He is enthroned; He was hated here, He is adored there, and the knowledge of this reveals the world's true character and makes us turn away from it and set our affections upon things above where Christ sits.

But there is another side to the question. The Lord is active in loving service towards us in the place where He is, and our need makes us look up to Him. We feel that we must have daily succour and strength which in ourselves we do not possess. From whence can it come? It comes from our Lord in heaven. "Seeing then that we have a great high Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God." We look up to Him in our countless needs and become acquainted with the tender sympathy of His heart. It is good to see how His compassion flowed out in constant service to needy people when He was on earth, but that is not enough for us, we need that compassion of which His heart is ever full for ourselves. He does not withhold it, and we learn as we draw near to Him that He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, yes, even with ours. So we come boldly to the throne of grace, for He sits upon it, and we have no fear of drawing near to Him; from thence we obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. It was thus that Paul the Apostle knew Him when he besought the Lord thrice that the thorn in the flesh might be removed from him. How overwhelmed and satisfied he must have been with the answer: "My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." There Paul gained a deepened acquaintance with his Lord, not only as his great high Priest who fully sympathized with him in his distress, but as his Lord, who is the great Administrator of heavenly grace and power, and he was glad to have the thorn since it put him into such complete dependence on the Lord and yielded such sweet communion with Him. It is well to know where our resources are when great demands are made upon us, and if our needs and distresses become the opportunities for a fuller knowledge of the grace of our Lord, we shall be helped by them in our acquaintance with Him.

But Paul shows us another side of his life in Philippians 3. He tells us that he had abandoned every advantage that natural birth and achievement had to give him for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. He had gladly cast them all away, as a man would cast away a useless and putrid load, for present acquaintance with Christ in glory. It was not his need now, but Christ Himself, brighter and better than the brightest and best that earth could offer. The wonder of that acquaintance had a most remarkable effect upon him, it filled him with determination to actually reach his Lord where He is, nothing should hinder him, suffering and death would be as nothing to the desire that filled his soul, but like a hound at full stretch on the track of its quarry, he reached forth and pressed onward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Such a concentration of spiritual energy fills us with amazement, and yet that was the effect of a present acquaintance with Christ upon the pattern Christian.

The Spirit of God who dwells in us is indispensable to this acquaintance with our Lord where He is. Who could have conceived that the Father would have sent the Spirit to indwell us, but He has done so, for, using your quotation in your letter, "God's great desire is to make us livingly acquainted with our Saviour where He is." The Spirit has been given to us with this in view. By Him we are joined to Christ where He is, and He is our means of communication with Christ; He it is who takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us, and gives to us the capacity to understand them and the power by which we reach our Lord in our faith and affections now. The Holy Spirit leads us along the spiritual journey that we must take if the desired acquaintance with our Saviour is to be realized. There is nothing mysterious about this, the simplicity of an undivided heart is really all that is needed on our part, then we are ready to turn away from the world, and to say, No, to self, for the treasure we have found in our Saviour's love.

Now, as to reading the Gospels. They will certainly increase our knowledge of the Lord as we read them, and the more we know of Him the more we shall love to read them. If there are persons in our lives whom we dearly love, we desire to learn all we can about them, every detail of their lives is of interest to us. It is so in our reading of the Lord's life here, and the more so because what He is was displayed in all His ways and words; what came out in revelation then abides in Him today, and what we read of Him becomes food for our souls, for it is Himself. Our love for Him finds in these God-inspired records that in which it delights, and by which it is increased and nourished, and what we learn as we read them becomes the substance of our worship and our communion with the Lord. In the Gospels we have the word of Life revealed and declared to us that our fellowship might be with the Father and the Son, and that our joy may be full.

But we need the Acts and the Epistles also, in them we learn that the One who has become so attractive to us is now exalted in heaven. God has made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ, He has highly exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name; He has become the centre of attraction for us, and we see Jesus not receiving honours from men but from God, and we are willing to let the world go by and have Christ for our gain, to think of Him, depend upon Him, commune with Him and become like Him.

Much ought to be said on this deeply important question which your letter asks, but this must suffice for this paper.