The Glory, Wealth and Patience of the Lord

It is not my intention to depress you by discoursing on the tragedy of the Laodicean church. I have a happier and more heartening theme. We know that this Laodicean condition describes one of the last and worst phases of the church’s career on earth, but it describes also the condition into which individual Christians may fall; it may describe your condition and mine. We should face the danger, that being forewarned we may be forearmed. Let no one think that he does not need these words of the Lord to His backslidden church, recorded for us by the Holy Ghost; everyone of us needs them or it would not have been said, “He that has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

The Lord is very jealous of our affections and spiritual condition, and He has His own way of speaking to us and searching our hearts. Some time ago I visited a dear brother in a mental institution. He was in the hospital ward at the extreme end of it. As I sat talking to him I noticed a man at the other end of the ward beckoning to me. I went to see what he wanted. He said, “You are a gospel preacher.” I said, “By the grace of God I am.” “Yes,” he added. “But you are growing lukewarm. Don’t grow lukewarm, good afternoon.” I had nothing to say in answer as to myself; his words searched my heart and made me pray, “O Lord preserve me from drifting into that condition so obnoxious to Thee.” It is easy to drift. A shrewd and earnest Christian was asked as to the church to which he belonged. He answered in one word, “Lukewarm.” “And what is the cause of that?” he was asked. “There is no cause,” he said, “it’s just chilled down naturally.” That is our tendency and our danger, and everything around us contributes to this natural chilling down, and the only way in which we can be preserved from it is by keeping the fire burning within our souls.

There is only one way by which the fire in our souls can be kept burning and that is by setting the Lord always before us, and specially as He shows Himself in His word to the Laodiceans. He tells them what He is, what He can impart and what He does. The knowledge of Him as He here appears will keep us from backsliding, and even if any of us have drifted into this lukewarm condition a sight of Him in this threefold way is well calculated to recover us to the warmth of first love.

He says, “I am the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” Every heart here will be surely stirred by the thought that God has had a Man in the world who was in absolute accord with His holy will; who Amened every thought and word of God. Every man of Adam’s race thought of himself; they said “Nay” to the will of God, for self-governed them, and the very essence of sin is self, and all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But Jesus did not come short. He is the Amen. As He came from His high glory into this world, He said, “Lo I come, in the volume of the book it is written of Me. I delight to do Thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart” (Ps. 40; Heb. 10). It was the Amen that uttered those wonderful words. His determination was that every thought of God's heart should be fulfilled; that His will should be done in its full and blessed completeness; that there should be a perfect response in a Man on earth to God in heaven, and a “so be it” to His will.

When those shepherds looked upon Him lying, a lowly babe in the manger at Bethlehem, they looked upon the great Amen. Angels must have marvelled at the long-suffering of God who waited as the centuries between Adam and Christ rolled slowly by, but it was for this He waited. To Him all the prophets bore witness; for His day all the men of faith had looked. Do you wonder that when the due time arrived a multitude of angels joined in the joyful words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”?

In the Amen is finality, the full and final revelation of God. Nothing could be added to that revelation When the Amen had uttered His voice. And therein lies the great and unforgivable sin of Modernism, it takes from the revelation or adds to it, it attempts to sweep away the Amen, and says there has been no Amen as yet, no finality and never will be until man has evolved himself upward from the ape to God; it refuses the revelation that came down from God to men. It has no certainty, no assurance, no true Christ and hence no true God, and no Amen, and its condemnation and eternal judgment are just (ch. 32:18-19).

But the Amen must be also the Faithful and True Witness, all would fail without this, but this He was from the first breath that He drew in the manger to His last upon the Cross. He could say “I have preached righteousness in the great congregation, lo, I have not refrained My lips, O Lord. Thou knowest I have not hid Thy righteousness within My heart; I have declared Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation: I have not concealed Thy loving kindness and Thy truth from the great congregation” (Ps. 40:9-10). But this made Him the object of Satan’s inveterate and implacable malice and the scorn and hatred of men; the Faithful and True Witness was the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. How popular He might have been if He had only compromised a little, Satan would have given Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, and men would have crowned Him King. But He would not compromise. He was the Faithful and True Witness in words and works. His words were the Father's words equally when He said “Come unto Me … and I will give you rest” and “How shall ye escape the damnation of hell”. His works were the Father’s works as completely so when He drove the money changers from the Temple as when He gathered the children to His bosom. The nature of God which is love was fully revealed in Him, but He also bore true witness to God’s holiness and hatred of sin.

But the witness would have been incomplete without the Cross. If you would know what God is, look at the Cross. See there God’s beloved Son given for a rebel world. See there sin arising in its might to crush and destroy the Son of God and see the love of God rising higher than it all, yes, at the Cross God’s love celebrated its mighty triumph, making the climax of man’s hatred the occasion for the manifestation of supreme and invincible love. When Jesus said “It is finished”, God was glorified, the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness had finished the work that God had given Him to do.

He became incarnate and lived and died on earth but He has been raised again from the dead, and as the risen Lord He is the beginning of the creation of God, a new creation that can never be soiled or spoiled by sin, but upon every part of which He will stamp His own character, And I call upon you who have believed and all that is within you to bless His holy Name, for you are part of that new creation, the creation of God. As the Amen Jesus stood alone, He was unique, the Second Man out of heaven; as the Faithful and True Witness He stood alone, distinguished from all other men by the Father’s voice from the excellent glory, and none could share with Him the curse of the Cross. He was the holy Victim there, made sin for us, wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. But now He is raised from the dead, the glory of the Father raised Him, proof that the price He paid for our redemption was enough, that eternal justice was vindicated and Satan defeated for ever. Now He has companions, He calls them His brethren, they are the much fruit brought forth by the death of the Corn of Wheat (John 17: 24), you and me, who have Him as our Saviour and our Lord.

He is the Leader, the Head of this new creation and He has breathed His own life into us, He has imparted to us the Spirit, so that not only is the life of it ours but the power of it as well. “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly” (l Cor. 15:48), and “As He is so are we in this world” (1 John 4:1). Having part in the nature, life and power of the new creation we find the Father’s will to be good, acceptable and perfect. It is as being joined to Christ. “One spirit with the Lord” that we have this place and power. Christ Himself stamps His own character upon the new creation and so upon us as we are subject to Him. It is the great triumph of grace that we who always said “Nay” to the will of God should now say “Amen” to it; that we should desire to be faithful and true witnesses and have our part in the creation of God; but we shall not know the power and blessedness of these new creation blessings by looking at ourselves and wondering how far we are in them, it is as we behold them in Christ that we are kept, as we behold His glory we are transformed into the same image from glory to glory.

Now we may have accepted these great things as doctrine and yet never have appropriated them by faith and made them realities in our soul’s experience by the Spirit. Was this the cause of the Laodicean’s lukewarmness? It does appear so, for they had let go these realities for the vain show that man in the flesh makes; they had turned from the second Man to the first. They were a boastful crowd, and wherever you hear boasting, even if it be in spiritual possessions and positions there is the Laodicean spirit; it is self; it is the flesh. I am not going to dwell upon that, though it might be good by way of warning, but what I want is to keep before you the Lord Himself and the true riches that He has to impart.

He says, “I counsel thee to buy of Me.” To buy may mean parting with something that has been highly prized, it certainly means the appropriation of that that the Lord has to impart and it involves a personal transaction with Himself. He has three things to impart, Gold tried in the fire, white raiment and eye-salve. I think all will agree that gold in Scripture is a symbol of what God is: His nature, His glory. Here it is gold tried in the fire. I speak with the greatest of reverence when I say God has been tested to the uttermost. His longsuffering, His nature, His love was tested when Jesus was here, tested by the opposition of sinners, tested fully and finally at the Cross, and with what result?

“Inscribed upon the cross we see
In shining letters, God is love.”

God, as revealed in the cross of Christ, is the gold tried in the fire.

What a wonderful thing the knowledge of God is to be able to say to Him, “Thou art My God”, and to know that nothing can separate us from His love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. To wake in the morning with the knowledge of Him in the heart, to be able to say, “I know God and He loves me, He has power and all wisdom, and I may commit my way to Him for this day and be perfectly quiet and at rest, no matter what I may have to meet: to lie down at night and say “I will both lay me down in peace and sleep: for Thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in safety”: to be able to say in days of stress and danger, “If God be for us, who against us?” This is the treasure we may have in our earthen vessels: this is the gold tried in the fire.

The White Raiment is Christ. Paul knew this when he desired “to be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God through faith” (Phil 3:9). There never was a time in man’s history when his moral bankruptcy and stark nakedness were more evident than today, only excepting that one day when from the frenzied multitude there rose the cry, “Away with Him crucify Him.” The princes of this world crucified the Lord of glory. And we have to chose between this man and Christ. Consider what man is in whom the works of the flesh appear, then read the Gospels and consider Christ, and say which you prefer, to whom are you attracted? Will you have the first man as your covering and character before God and man, or Christ? To be clothed in the beauty of Christ before God and to have him as your character before men is to have the white raiment that thou mayest be clothed.

THE EYESALVE is the gracious work of the Holy Spirit within the heart, opening the eyes of the heart to see and appreciate what Christ is. It is by the Spirit’s teaching that we discern the true character of the world and of man, and of self. We learn that in our flesh good does not dwell, and it is in vain to look for it in the world that has refused Christ, and it is by the same Spirit that we behold the glory of the Lord. He takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us, and glorifies Him.

Is it not a very wonderful thing that we, once without God and without hope in the world, may now know the triune God—Father, Son and Holy Ghost—active towards us for our enrichment and satisfaction; that we may know Father, Son and Holy Ghost in their infinite blessedness in our soul’s experience. It was this that the Lord offered to the Laodicean church, aid this He offers to us.

Now I pass on to how He acts. He says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” I question whether in the whole of the New Testament there are words in which there is more pathos than in those words. Think of it. The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, who has the wealth of heaven to give who loved His church and gave Himself for it, shut out and the door barred against Him! Room inside that church for pride and boasting, for the world and the things of the world but no room for Jesus! Yet He stands at the door, not with anger in His heart, but unrequited love, not with stern rebuke upon His lips but tender entreaty. He does not knock with glittering sword but with pierced hand.

It does not appear as though there was any hope of repentance on the part of this church as such, but the Lord appeals to the heart or the individual, to your heart and mine, “If any man hear My voice.” He yearns for responsive affection; time, labour, money, are all right in their place and may be used for Him and His service, but it is companionship that He seeks; communion is His great desire, and nothing can satisfy love but this. It is love that speaks in His voice. Do we hear it? Have we any object that would divide our hearts with Him and gradually force Him out? May the thought of His love set us free from it, that He may be the object bright and fair to fill and satisfy out heart.

“I will sup with him and he with Me.” He will come down to our things and commune with us about them, sharing the joys and sympathising in the sorrows, and lifting us above our things that we might sup with Him, that we might have part with Him in His joys and have fellowship with Him in His sufferings.

Then finally, there is the promise to the overcomer, and just as it seems that He reserved for this church the greatest revelation of His glory and wealth and love so it seems to me that the reward offered to the overcomer is the sweetest of them all. “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me on My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father on His throne.” I venture to say that the dearest thing to the heart of the Lord is the approval of His Father. How has that approval been expressed? The Father has set Him with Himself on His throne. Says the Lord, ‘The overcomer shall have My approval and I will show that approval by setting him with Me on My throne, He who gives Me his companionship while the mass shut the door upon Me, shall be My companion in the day of My glory’. Are you ambitious, my young Christian friends? Let your ambition run in this line, ‘We are ambitious’, said Paul, ‘that whether present or absent we should be well pleasing to Him’. The Lord grant that every one of us may have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

J. T. Mawson