Imitators of God.

Ephesians 5:1, 2.

1872 8 There is hardly any thing that more shows the tendency of believers (for I speak of them) to miss the best part of their blessings, than the way in which they lose sight of God Himself in each one of their blessings.

Undoubtedly the blessing is for man; but how much more sweet, and full, and worthy when we have distinctly before our hearts that it is a blessing, not only from God, but according to Him; that He could not give a blessing short of His own glory, more particularly now that Christ has come and has accomplished redemption! God, I say, could not give a blessing except according to His own fulness and glory. Hence it does not matter what it is, if He forgives, He forgives like none other, if He slims love, it must be according to His own nature, not ours merely. The blessing does come in all reality down to the very smallest need of our souls; but it is the blessing of God which comes from Himself, according to His affections and His majesty.

So too, if we look at the principle or animating spring of service every day, we lose immensely by leaving God out of it. Take for instance this: the great thought of by far the largest part of the children of God is that of doing good. I am now giving the children of God credit for thoughts above self, being in fact persuaded, that he or she cannot be a child of God without thoughts of good towards others. But this is not enough. It never meets the mind of God. It is good as far as it goes; but most assuredly it is much short of that to which the Spirit of God here invites our souls. Certainly it was never thus with Christ. Was there ever one that went about doing good with such entire self-renunciation as the Lord Jesus? But was this all? Had He merely the sense of a miserable world, of men blind here and lame there and wretched everywhere? He felt this as no other heart ever did, but there never was a soul that came under the blessing of the Lord Jesus, even for the least want, weakness, infirmity or suffering of the body, where the Lord Jesus did not go down in spirit under the evil that He removed, and rise up to God in order to turn all to His glory. And we are not only entitled to do so, but we wrong our God and Father where we do not. You will find therefore that one of the great signs of the power of the Spirit of God working is this, that wherever the blessing comes the first effect is, where the Holy Ghost is active, not enjoying the blessing only, but the soul bowing to God and blessing Him. It is not merely man conscious of blessing and occupied with the profession of it. This is real no doubt; but it would be much more real, and with less of self about it, were God Himself the first thought, rather than the blessing that has come to one.

So in early days we find in Eliezer the servant of Abraham, who sets forth to us peculiarly in type the action of the Holy Ghost; he looks up to God in a spirit of dependence before the answer, of praise after it is given. He does not venture haphazard to set about his master's command; and hence he bows down before God before entering the city, and receives the answer on the spot: that man does not take the answer and rejoice, that there is an end of the difficulty and that the blessing is come, but he worships the God who had given him the blessing. And so whenever God is in the thought, it is He to whom we shall give the first place. If this was the case with Eliezer, how much more was it in the Lord Jesus! We see it all through the life and in the death of Jesus. Just as with the natural man, God is in none of his thoughts; so where the power of the Spirit of God gives grace to reign, God is in all the thoughts, and He is the first thought; and where He is first, by God's grace He will be the last. But in general we are apt to look at ourselves first if not always, occupied with the blessing, and talking about it. Thus the Blesser is so far shrouded, as our own having a part in it is prominent before our souls.

And if we take the fruit of the blessing of God, devotedness to Him, it is not merely that we are called to be the witnesses of God to poor, perishing sinners, and to those that are in sorrow, though this is quite true, but where there is reality about the soul there will be reality about everything, and what gives reality about soul, body, circumstances, everything, is this, that there is simplicity in having to do with God. This was found in Jesus as it was nowhere else. Therefore in this very place where the apostle is exhorting us to be followers of God as dear children, he could not but at once bring in Christ, and walking in love. Why? because people are so wretched and so needy? No, that is perfectly true, but "walk in love as Christ also hath loved us." This shows us the manner of it. It will be the spring of a measure that can never fail, "as Christ also hath loved us." Do we stop here? Many do. It is our constant tendency, where, on the contrary, we ought, as it were, only' to be carried back on a wave of blessing, which as it came from God also ends in God Himself. Christ "gave himself for us." It was for us; but it was also "an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour." And if there had not been this, as the deeper object and higher character of the work of the Lord Jesus, it would not have been perfection. It would have been human kindness, not the choicest fruit of divine love. As love comes out from God, it always refers back to God. Loving-kindness may be moved by human compassions being drawn out or feelings wrought upon, and you then simply attach the person to yourself; whereas if you attach the person by that act in thanksgiving unto God, the difference in the effect is incalculable.

And this first reference to God is not only found in Christ, and of course in perfection in Him: but we may see the same thing in 2 Corinthians viii. 5, where the apostle is speaking about the labourers. But we must not leave the best of the blessing to be carried off as a prize by the labourers who serve in the word of God. The weakest saint of His ought to look to Christ that he may be found to be the vessel of the finest affections of God. It behoves us to act up to our proper dignity, and in no way can we do so except as Christ is before us. Gift is nothing as to this; gift or no gift, young Christian or old, we have Christ, and the Spirit of God will surely be with us to make us think of the truth and to fill our hearts with it if we are only desiring it. What does the apostle say with regard to this service of the saints? "This they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord and unto us by the will of God." They first gave themselves to the Lord: where this is the case, we must not wonder at the result. They "first gave their own selves to the Lord," etc. With the Lord the object before us, the unseemliness, the forwardness, the hanging back, the manifold ways that show how weak and worthless the flesh is — all these things are corrected and rebuked. Though we are but earthen vessels, yet grace puts the richest treasure there; but the just issue is only as we look steadily to Him who gave it so freely. And the proof of the Spirit's working in us is this, that our ways are comely, and so they please the Lord, that He Himself is the fashioner of our path and conduct, that we are willing to listen and learn, and to bear the judgment of others. No one ought to be above learning; and we prove more the strength of our faith by patience than in any other way. When we have not the consciousness that we are right before the Lord and that we serve Him, we are apt to be impatient; but if our ways please the Lord, we can afford to bear what others may say, if they be ever so wrong; and we can be thankful, if need be, to be set right ourselves. It is Christ alone who can make or keep us such as He would have us. The Lord grant that we, giving ourselves to the Lord and to His saints by the will of God, may be found walking in love till that day.