Union With Christ

Joshua 3.

Last evening we were hearing about what the Church is to Christ, which is, so to speak, God's side - His purpose and sovereignty. I desire to speak a little as to the other side of that truth, and to put it in such a simple way before your souls that everyone, even the youngest here, may understand it, because it is one thing to know what the Church is to Christ on God's side, and quite another thing as to whether we have found our place in it. I remember myself when I could have talked to you about Ephesians, but knew nothing of the road experimentally. I could see that the truth in it was great and beautiful, but it had not reached my conscience. God would have each of us know that we are united to Christ, not only in His counsel, but in fact. We are united to Him by the Spirit.

Now you never can touch the ground that Christ is on till you are over Jordan. Israel could not get to Canaan but through the wilderness and over Jordan; there was no other road. You have heard that you must change from Adam to Christ; now let me tell you that you must do another thing, and that is, you must change your place. "Young men" (see 1 John 2) are dead to sin; they have "overcome the wicked one," but they are not dead to the world, and therefore the exhortation to them is, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." They are not over Jordan; they have got as far as Romans, "dead to sin," but not to Colossians, which is dead to the world. In Romans you are dead to sin; in Colossians you are dead to the world. It is a wonderful day in the history of your soul when you reach the place where Christ is; there is no knowledge of your union with Him until then. You see it in Rebekah. (Gen. 24.) She has to go to the spot where Isaac is before she is united to him. What I desire to dwell upon is what must be produced in your soul, before you can know anything about the transforming effect which His presence has upon you, and what it produces, which is "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." That is, I do not allow a single thing in me for which Christ died. It is not effort on my part, but I do not like it; it interferes with me; I am in another order of things altogether. Now God helps you. "For we who live are always delivered unto death on account of Jesus." It is not that God is hard, or wants to take anything from you, neither is it with you a question of things going. No, the things have lost their attractiveness to you.

I can speak for myself, and I only do so to help others; at one time I almost regretted being able to take so little interest in things here, improvements and such things, but I am glad of it now. What we have to learn is that these things are as weights upon us. No doubt many here will understand what I mean, but there may be others who have never apprehended the journey they have to take in order to reach what was presented to us last night. No one can be a confidential servant of Christ who is not in the secrets of his Master, and you cannot understand His mind unless you are in conscious union with Him. You may be a servant without this, but not a confidential servant. A confidential servant is taken up with Christ's interests, like a devoted wife, who not only loses her individuality, but her husband's interests are paramount with her. They are her one consideration. Now "Christ dwells in your hearts by faith"; you understand what suits Christ.

There are great things learned in Jordan. There you get the end of the wilderness. In the Red Sea we have one aspect of the death of Christ, in Jordan another. In the first you get out of the place of judgment by death into the wilderness. And let me ask, What do you expect in the wilderness? That you are going to have a grand time of it? Not at all; the children of Israel only went three days' journey in it when they found out what it was. There was no water, and when at last they found some it was "Marah" (bitterness). You will be disappointed if you expect to find anything in it but "Marah." People talk of their trials, and then of their mercies, but you have got something far beyond mercies: you have got the Father's things. Do you ask, What are they? You must go to the place where they are to find them; but you cannot connect the Father with temporal mercies. When I speak of Him as Father it is as being His child, and that carries me to where He is; but if I speak of temporal mercies I think of Him as God, as Creator, that is in connection with things down here. If you expect anything in the wilderness you are looking in the wrong place for it, and the reason you are disappointed is because you are not looking for your blessings in the right place. After three days' journey in it Israel found no water, and when water was found it was bitter. God tells Moses to take a tree and put that into the water. What is that? Christ died here. The water becomes sweet. I am free! I am out of it. You can never leave the world until you learn Numbers 21, the brazen serpent. We see this brought out in John 3. John gives you the subjective. Paul gives you the work of grace for your justification, reconciliation, and such-like foundation truths; and when you come to Romans 7 you find out that you are irremediably bad, and cry out, "Who will deliver me?" Then in Romans 8 you are in the Spirit, and now you can leave the world; you are free. What had they in the wilderness? The manna and the smitten rock.

"Art thou weaned from Egypt's pleasures?
God in secret thee shall keep,
There unfold His hidden treasures,
There His love's exhaustless deep.
"In the desert God will teach thee
What the God that thou hast found,
Patient, gracious, pow'rful, holy;
All His grace shall there abound."

Now the world is but the place of death to you; nothing in it suits you. The true character of things here is realised when you feed on and are sustained by the manna - what Christ is. At the end of the journey they tired of it, loathed it, and spoke slightingly of it: "Our soul loatheth this light food." After the brazen serpent they had no other food, and they fought on it; they slew Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan. You will never taste heaven till you go through the wilderness. You may read about it and talk about it, but you do not really taste it. If you try to make things bright for yourself here, how can they be bright for you there? Impossible! It cannot be. But you say, Does not God give us mercies here? Yes, He does. "He giveth His beloved sleep." What I want to press upon you is that the wilderness is but a passage, a bridge that must be crossed before you can enter Canaan, and then you have a new experience of the wilderness. This is Philippians, the experience true of the heavenly man. I must cross it, and I do not expect anything on the way but what characterises the wilderness. The children of Israel ought to have crossed the wilderness in a few days, but it took them forty years. Why? What was the object? What is God's object with you now, as you tread the wilderness path? Is it that you may know yourself? No, but that "He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live." God will have us obedient and dependent. It is easy to be dependent when things are bright, but how is it with you when you have to meet difficulties? Christ was the dependent Man down here. Satan came and tempted Him, but only to find Him the perfectly obedient and dependent Man. In Romans you are dead to sin, but not dead to the world; you must cross Jordan for that, but when you cross, then you find yourself upon new ground altogether. You are dead to the world, and what is the consequence? You will have a sense in your soul such as you never had before of what Christ is to you where He is, in His own place. J. B. Stoney. 1894.