Monday, December 31, 2012

The Coming of the Lord

      I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. - Revelation 22:16-17

      My desire is to present with the testimony which marks the assembly at the close, which you get in these two verses. The true heart is arrested and influenced by the Messiah's communication, "I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." This is your prospect; "The root and the offspring of David" intimates that he is the King; and "the morning star," that the day is at hand:the morning star is the harbinger of the day. To Thyatira, which is Romanism, when corruption had begun, the promise to the one who overcomes is "To him will I give power over the nations." There is now a distinct change in the nature of the rewards, concluding with "I will give him the morning star." Now the morning star is not an independent manifestation, it obviously refers to the day. I admit that the morning star includes the resurrection; specially connected with "the day." The morning star naturally attracts you to the day, and when the morning star is vividly before you, it is not your own benefit from the resurrection which engrosses you, but that the day when the Messiah shall reign is at hand. It is the prelude of the day, as Peter writes, "Until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts." Anyone acquainted with natural things, or who has traveled by night, knows that the appearance of the morning star is hailed as the intimation that the day is at hand. Surely your gain will be great when the morning star appears, when the Messiah rises from the Father's throne. Then the resurrection will take place of his own, blessed be his name, first share in his glory. But as far as I know the resurrection is not spoken of but in 1 Thessalonians 4; though, as in John 14:3, the gain to us is prominent. Even in 1 Thessalonians the great subject is "the day."

      Now the first point I insist on is that the Messiah, "The root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star," is your hope. The assembly has failed as the "candlestick," that is, as the recognized light-bearer among men. I know there is a great attempt in Christendom to be acknowledged as the candlestick; there are large buildings, called churches, ringing of bells, and other religious demonstrations, all to regain a lost position, and some devoted servants of Christ seek to be acknowledged; as has been said, trafficking upon the toleration accorded by the mere professors. A distinction forfeited is never restored; but John prepares the assembly for the Messiah. The church visibly is a ruin, yet the remnant is ready for the Lord, "The Spirit and the bride say, Come." The remnant is part of the original, and is distinguished by the special grace of the original. I gather this from Scripture. Until you know and accept that the church has failed as the "candlestick," you are not occupied with the "morning star," looking for the lord to come according to his own communication. Hence in the closing assemblies the kingdom is brought prominently before you. To the assembly in Philadelphia the Messiah appears with "the key of David," the rejected King. And consequently to Laodicea, when the assembly is characterized by pretension and lukewarmness, the reward to the one who overcomes is that he shall "sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne." First you are arrested by the lord's communication, "I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." You have before you the day of the Messiah's glory, not merely the relief which will be vouchsafed to you at the resurrection. At the resurrection we shall all be caught up to "be for ever with the Lord," but subsequently we shall all stand before the judgment seat of the Messiah prior to our appearing with him. Hence we read of the servants, "That when he shall appear we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." The grace at the resurrection is most touching, that the lord, the moment he receives from His God and his Father his great power, descends from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God in order to liberate his own; he is thinking of them first, and hence we read in Philippians 3, "According to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."
      It is very striking that as soon as the Messiah receives his great power to reign, the first wave of that power is to gather all his own unto himself in bodies like unto His body of glory from Adam downward. That is the resurrection. The Thessalonians were very zealous; they had "turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His son from heaven"; they did not know of the resurrection before this epistle was written. They had thought that their fellow-Christians who had died would not have part with them in the Kingdom. Hence the apostle tells them that the first demonstration of the Messiah's power will be with reference to his own. "The dead in the Messiaht shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them." The morning star may indicate that great event, but you must bear in mind that the morning star refers to the day, or otherwise you will not understand the figure. The first demonstration of that day is for our great benefit; but no true heart could limit the day of the Messiah's glory to his own immediate benefit. "The day of the Messiah "is when he appears in glory, and no blessing can be consummated or anything be in its right place until the Messiah is in his place. That he should come is the one desire of the bride.

      Next, you are looking for him to reign. Hence in John 21 we read that John was to wait  "till I come." Now when the Revelation was given, everything was ready for the lord to come. The Revelation was written to the seven churches. You should read it as one letter, then you will be impressed with the state of things here, but that the grand issue or denouement will be that the lord will reign; the lord will take to himself his great power and reign. Hence your place with him in his Kingdom will be determined by the way you are for him here during His rejection. It is important that you should be looking for him to come and reign.

      In Luke 19 we read, "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return, and he called his ten servants and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come." They were to be rewarded when he returned according to the measure in which they had gained by trading, as they had turned his gifts to good account. Note that in Thyatira, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, the rewards to the one who overcomes are connected with the Kingdom; and the least place is given to the Laodicean. The one who overcomes in Thyatira receives a much higher place. "To him will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron." If the Laodicean overcomes it is said, "He shall sit with me in my throne " -- not ruling. The youngest believer will be with the Messiah to share with him in his glory. I am pressing on you that your hearts should be set on the Messiah's coming to reign, because you are in the place where he was rejected. Hence you are not thinking exclusively of joining him in heaven, but that he should come and reign.

      In the lord's supper you announce his death "till he come." No doubt the resurrection is preliminary, but the prominent desire is with reference to the Messiah himself. The tendency with us all is to be preoccupied with our own benefit; but as your heart is true to him you are not thinking of your own relief merely; your eye is fixed on the morning star as the harbinger of the day when the Messiah will have  his right place here. If you look at Revelation 4 you will see that the saints are with the Messiah in heaven. He has not demonstrated his rule yet; but they are with him and ready for him; they had been caught up together to meet the lord in the air; the resurrection has taken place. No one can truly say, "Come," but the bride, because she has present affection for him, the first love has been revived. The candlestick has been removed; but love for him has been so revived that you want him to come; you are not looking for a restoration of the candlestick, but that he himself should come. Hence you read in Matthew 25, the last appearance of the Kingdom of heaven, "Then shall the Kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom," but "while the bridegroom tarried they all slumbered and slept." There was an awakening at midnight, "Behold the bridegroom." Five were wise, and five were foolish; there were as many false as there were true. The imitators were as many as the real -- a terrible state of things! Could anything depict the character of this day more than that there should be as many foolish virgins as wise ones going forth to meet the Bridegroom without any divine power! They had the form of godliness, as Paul predicted (2 Timothy 3); but they denied the power thereof. Here doubtless John's ministry comes in.

      I also refer you to the end of Mark 13, where we read he gave "to every man his work"; and "What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." The true heart was simply looking out for Him to return.

      I turn now to 2 Timothy 3, "This know that in the last days perilous" (difficult) "times shall come." Paul did not live in those days; he was conversant with the state of things described in chapter 2, where they had "erred "from the truth. But now we find they "resist "the truth. Paul describes the perilous times prophetically. Most interesting and important for every servant in this day, and indeed for every saint, because you are either helping the servant or hindering him. Perilous times shall come and it is of all importance that we should understand the state of things which constitute the difficult times. It has often been remarked that in Romans 1 you have heathendom, and here you have Christendom, and you have the same principles of evil, though you have not the same manifestation of them. In heathendom the wickedness is open and notorious; while in Christendom there is an effort to preserve a good exterior "a form of godliness" (a cloke) "but denying the power thereof."

      As I have said, there were five foolish virgins with their lamps going forth to meet the bridegroom, but without spiritual power. The grievous and effectual opposition in these times is imitation. "As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth." They withstood Moses by imitating his works. Their aim was to neutralize the power of God by human ability. This is the aim of imitation, a most effectual opposition to the truth. Take a simple case:a Christian leaves the system with the desire of being on true ground with the lord. If he is faithful, all goes on well; but if after a while he becomes disaffected and forms a party, he resists the truth by imitating it. If he had returned to the system there would be no imitation; but when he imitates separation the truth is resisted. Now it is most solemn and interesting than Jannes and Jambres were defeated when the power of life was manifested, they could not imitate it. It is here John's ministry comes in; John's ministry presents the wonderful power given to you, it is subjective. Hence, "They shall proceed no further, for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was."

      Take any sect you like, and you will see that they betray the folly of their pretensions when confronted with the truth of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. See Weslyans or Quakers. I can remember the Irvingite, I knew them in their first attractiveness; their great point at first was the coming of the lord; but from this they were diverted by seeking for a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and that without it you could not be ready to meet the lord; they eventually degenerated so much as to read the litany.

      It is of the deepest importance that you should apprehend the nature and character of the difficult times divinely, for if you do not, you never will be able to cope with them. Timothy was qualified to cope with the state of things in the difficult times, he was fully acquainted with Paul's "doctrine, manner of life," and "From a child you have known the holy Scriptures." Paul's teaching, which embraces the gospel and the assembly, inculcates God's present object. In "the holy Scriptures "you have divine principles (man in all his deformity, and God in all His greatness) and by them you are taught that the man who has God's object at the time, whatever that object is; is the man of power, supported by God. Open the Bible anywhere, and you will find that this is a divine principle:and surely no one is equal to the difficult times who does not understand the mystery. I do not mean that he is not a Christian, but I am speaking of a man equal to the crisis. How could you counteract the worst state of things brought about by Satan in the last days if you did not stand for God's object for the time? and you could not stand for it if you did not know it. Hence Timothy was told in chapter 2, "The things that you have heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit you to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."

      The blessed God revives from the lowest point, when anyone has faith in Him as to His object at the time. This is properly "the remnant."

      I have already referred to the remnant. To the assembly of Thyatira it is said, "And unto the rest" say I; "the rest "means the remnant. The remnant in Scripture is not a residue. You will get the scriptural idea in Isaiah 6:13: "But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten:as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves:so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof." The tenth or tithe is the lord's. He will not leave himself without witness, hence the remnant is characterized by the brightest feature of the original, God's object for the time. I cannot refer to all the remnants in Scripture, I will refer to one or two. Jacob is the remnant of Abraham's period; he worshipes God, leaning upon his staff; he is fully a stranger and pilgrim, he says, "As for me, Rachel died by me ", he no longer looks for anything here, but he blesses Joseph's sons.

      The difference between Abraham and Lot was that Abraham was in faith set for God's object; Lot was seeking his own advantage. Many Christians, like Lot, are righteous; but they are not in faith set for God's object for the time, they are not in a right attitude of mind spiritually. Now, if Satan can divert you to a wrong attitude of mind which is not God's present object, he has through you defeated the purpose of God. Many Christians assume to be in a right attitude of mind before the descent of the Holy Spirit, and consequently are not advanced beyond the lord's prayer. They may be pious, but they assume to be in a right attitude of mind where God is not working, and thus they miss the 'trade winds,' the present course of the Spirit of God. If you are set for God's object at the time, it is wonderful the way He will uphold you. Look at Samuel, the last of the judges; he cried unto the Lord for Israel, and the Lord heard him, and the Philistines were discomfited, they were smitten before Israel. Then Samuel took a stone, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, "Hitherto has the LORD helped us"; "and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel." There is the remnant.

      One example more, when our lord first entered the temple (see Luke 2:22, etc.), not only Simeon acknowledged him, but Anna, the prophetess, a widow of about eighty-four years, "which departed not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day." Simeon and Anna were the remnant for that time; they were set upon God's purpose in the lowest state of things. If you are set for God's object in the lowest state of things, you must be in the line of His power and His pleasure, hence the brightest and most important characteristic of it will be most prominent in you. Many say, all is in ruin: that is the moment for the man of faith to stand for God's object. If you know it and have faith in Him to stand for it, then you are the remnant. In every way you are sure to be helped if you are set for God's object.

      Look at Anna; the moment she saw the child Jesus she recognized Him, "gave thanks likewise unto the Lord." Where did she get her information? All the learned men in Jerusalem did not know it. She was set upon God's purpose for the time, she was greatly favored, and she "spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" -- a bright example for us all.

      You see, I trust, how the remnant should be characterized: consequently the remnant now is set for God's present object, which is the mystery; that the Messiah should be described by his own body here where he has been rejected. Nothing satisfies you, if true in heart to him, but known union with him; and you could neither share in his power, nor be in concert with his mind, except you were consciously united to him.

      It is very interesting to note the effectiveness of John's ministry in the difficult times. Every servant of God knows something of the help of the Holy Spirit in John 14, but I judge that not many in this day know the leading of the Holy Spirit in John 15:.26. In John 14 the lord says," But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." Thus they should be fruit-bearers. Now, in chapter 15:26 we read, "The Comforter ... whom I will send unto you from the Father . . . he shall testify of me " -- the rejected Man in heaven. Connect this with the epistle to the Ephesians, and you will see how John's ministry supports Paul's teaching. The Holy Spirit is sent from the Messiah in heaven, that you might be able to describe him in his exaltation on the earth where he was rejected. John does not present the form as Paul does, but he presents to you the power only by which the form can be maintained.

      I turn now to the verses which I have read; "The Spirit and the bride say, Come." The Spirit and the bride invite the lord to come. This is the absorbing thought in response to his communication, "I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." No one could invite the Messiah to come if he were not in happy concert with his own mind; you could not invite him to come if you were not ready for him.

      "Let him that hears say, Come." I believe if you were saying "Come "practically, you would draw hearts to join you in saying "Come." I would to God that many were saying "Come." The effect would be very great. It is not merely that you are going to him but that you are ready waiting for him to come, as we read, "Every one that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure." This is very definite; you are characterized by your hope, you are being prepared for him. The knowledge of the truth will not do this; there must be personal devotion to the lord; nothing is more attractive or has more influence with others. The failure of the assembly is that they had left their first love; and there is no moral restoration until you begin at the point of departure.

      There is one mark more of those who are waiting for the  l ord, it is that they are giving the household their "meat in due season." When the servant is evil he will say in his heart, "My lord delays his coming, and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken"; he does not care for the "household." When I hear anyone referring to the coming of the lord, even in giving out a hymn about it, I am arrested, for as he is true, he is interested in getting ready the saints for the Lord. The true servant in any house does not attend merely to his own duties, but if he sees anything neglected by the others he rectifies it, because he is thinking of his master. And the greatest proof of your love for the Messiah is that you care for those who belong to him; if you love he, feed my sheep. You give them meat in due season. No assembly, as far as I know, rises above the ministry there; I do not limit ministry to one man, for surely the highest element of ministry in a place, by man or woman, gives a character to the ministry. Hence it is added, "Let him that is athirst come"; you have an interest in the benefit of others. And then finally you are, I may say, evangelical, in the opposite order observed by men. If you begin with the bride looking for the Messiah to come, you will seek that every one belonging to the Messiah should be according to his pleasure, for he is coming; hence you will rejoice to be the herald of this wonderful invitation, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." The gift of an evangelist comes from the head, and he should know that the assembly is the Messiah's treasure. The greatest evangelist that ever was, was the most enlightened servant of the assembly, I mean the apostle Paul. God is wiser than you. The gifts come from the head; the Messiah is the fountain and source of them all, and if you come really from the head and answer to him, you must understand what his chief interest is, and you are not working merely for the benefit of man. The chief work of the evangelist is that he is looking for the 'silver piece.'

      May the lord keep the subject of his coming fresh before your hearts, that you may be so set for it that you have no other hope in this scene of misrule and contrariety, your only expectation is that he would come and take his place of rule here on this earth.

By J.B. Stoney [edited by Bruce Lyon]

Approach to God

      "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water". - Hebrews 10:19-22.

      The subject here is approach to God. Among all Christians there is the knowledge of escape from judgment. Escape from judgment is, as it were, the only thing pressed. I do not know that, as a rule, the doctrine of approach is much known. You get an example of what I mean in Luke 17.

      You will remember the ten lepers:they were all healed; they all escaped; but only one approached. You see, according to the type (Leviticus 14), there was first the relieving of the leper -- an offering for his cleansing -- but afterwards he had to go through a very particular process before he could approach God.

      Now, beloved friends, I would wish to interest your hearts very much in this truth, that there is not only escape, but also approach to God. It is truly a wonderful thing for us sinners to escape from judgment; that is our side of the grace of God. But just think that the blessed God would like you to approach Him. Hence, when the one leper returned, the lord says, "Were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger."

      Well, you naturally ask, what was the hindrance or difficulty? That I will speak of presently. But before I speak of the hindrance or the obstruction (and that includes the process), I would dwell upon our having the right to approach to God, for that is the first great thing to be assured of in the soul, and that is what we find in figure here. The lord had so blessed the leper, that he was bound to return to him. When he did return, he doubtless exemplified what we have to go through as we approach. He falls down on his face; that is the process; you cannot approach without that. You can get the knowledge that you are saved from judgment, without parting company with yourself, but you cannot approach without doing so. No flesh can glory in God's presence.

      The first thing I will dwell upon now, after this preface, having, as I trust, interested you in the subject, is that the tabernacle discloses to us the delight that God has in having us in His own presence. If there had been no tabernacle, and Israel had only the land in prospect, their benefit and happiness would have been fully secured; but actually, on the road to Canaan, there was the tabernacle. And what you get in Hebrews is, that with us, it is not a tabernacle like the one Israel had, but the true tabernacle. It is not that I am brought up to it, but the sense of it is brought down to me, that I may know the delight that God has in having me in His presence.

      First, then, we have in Hebrews 10:19 the right to go in. We have 
"boldness," a very strong word, a word that is used for an emancipated slave; we have boldness to enter into the holiest. It is not escape merely; you might escape and yet never get there, like the nine lepers.

      Let me interest you in one thing more -- I have no doubt of the blessing of it -- it is not only that I have the right to approach into this light, but it is the nature of the reception I get from the Person who owns the place. When I use the word 'place,' I mean the condition belonging to a place. "The holiest of all "does not in Hebrews mean merely a place, therefore I say, you are here now in the presence of God.

      If you follow out the type, the tabernacle was in the wilderness, down among them. Now the anti-type is that we can enter into this blessing, its living reality, not in figure, but by the Spirit of God. Though I have not come to heaven yet, I have found approach to God in the holiest of all, beforehand. Oh! some may say, but when I read the Ephesians, I am seated in the heavenly places in the Messiah. True, but that only shows you still greater things, and that is for another purpose altogether. That is to qualify you to be a beautiful transcript of the heavenly Man on earth. This is delight of heart in conscious nearness to the blessed God. And therefore the first thing is, the right to come in. There is "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." This is the first thing, beloved friends. You have to say distinctly, I have the right to come in. As has been often remarked, you do not get beyond right here. This does not treat of what you do there; it does not come up to John 4, worshiping the Father. This is only establishing your right. It does not speak even of the consecrated company, though no doubt this is the only company there. We have the right of entrance. We have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus."

      Now look at the ground for the right of entrance. Turn to Matthew 27:50, "Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up his spirit; and the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent."

      I do not stay now to bring much scripture before you, but I will give you a note of it. You all remember Leviticus 16, the day of atonement. I will only allude to what occurred then. The blood was taken right in by the high priest, the blood of the bullock, and the blood of the goat. There were two bloods, the blood of two animals; and that was to show the twofold blessing of the two companies. There was the earthly company, and the heavenly company. What we have to do with is the heavenly company, that is, the company that is identified with the high priest. That is ourselves. Therefore it is in that aspect we are looked at in the Hebrews.

      The blood was taken right in, into the presence of the majesty of God, and it was sprinkled there upon the mercy seat seven times. That was to establish a basis for God to receive us there. The high priest presented himself and his house. According to God's estimate of the blood, He receives us there. Hence, the very moment the Messiah died, the veil was rent; God can come out and embrace the sinner. No one will ever be able to reach up to God's estimate of the blood of the Messiah, His beloved son. It is on His own estimate that He deals with me, not according to my estimate. Oh that your heart might enter into that! you can hardly believe the rest it gives! It is on His own estimate of the blood He deals with me. We do estimate it, but we cannot come up to His estimate of it. I press that point, beloved friends; on His own estimate of the blood He deals with me. As soon as Christ died, that moment of all moments in the history of this earth; the darkest, if you look at it as man would look at it; was the opening up of the brightest era that ever was disclosed upon this earth. All bore witness to Him. "The rocks rent," "the graves opened," and so on. But who was the first, beloved friends? God! Oh, may it touch every heart! "The veil was rent from the top to the bottom." It was not only that we can go in; no, but God can come out, a much greater thing. He who dwelt in thick darkness, He can come out. What do you mean? On His own estimate of that blood, He can come out and embrace a poor prodigal, though he be "a great way off." Love travels faster than necessity. Do you understand that saying? Necessity was bringing the prodigal to the Father, but love brought the Father to the prodigal, and the love went faster than the necessity.

      On the basis of what has been accomplished, love can do all its pleasure. God, the Father, can take that poor sinner into His arms, and kiss him; He can let His heart go out to him. Amazing grace.

      The veil was rent from the top to the bottom; now he has cleared everything away; there is no more offering for sin, he suffered without the gate. I say that the Messiah bore the judgment resting on the responsible man, and the responsible man disappears in judgment. Now we have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Christ, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh." The blessed holy One dies, His flesh rent to open a way for us; what place, then, for your flesh? None

      It is not necessary to speak of carnal ordinances now. Beloved friends, open your eyes and see what the holiness of God is, in His presence, and you will understand this.

If the Messiah's flesh was rent for me, to procure a way for me to enter, how could there be any place for man in flesh? Never! Flesh disappears, and I am glad that it disappears. "I am crucified with Christ " and I do not want it to appear, I am to reckon myself as dead to the flesh. "God forbid that I should whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."

      Now you can, I trust, see the ground of the right. And I say again, and I desire that your heart may cleave to it; it is on the estimate that God Himself has of the blood of the Messiah that I have the right. That is full of blessing.

      Well, I trust it is clear to you, that now there has been a basis for God, according to His nature, to receive us in His presence.

      The sin-offering does not go beyond establishing the right; it does not set forth how you are received, but only that you are entitled to be received. The parable of the prodigal son goes further.

What I have sought to make clear to you is that the right is established to go into the holiest of all, because if the holy, the blessed God Himself is ready and happy to receive me, how assured must be my right to come!

      Now we come to the second step, and that is, what is the reluctance; why does not every one go in? If it is so simple, and we all have the right, why do we not all go in? What is the hindrance? That is a very important question. I have already pointed out, in Luke 17, the case of the ten lepers, where there was only one out of the ten who overcame the reluctance; and in order to come, he had to fall down:" he fell down on his face at his feet." You may say, Well, I have escaped, I am clear of my sins, I will try by religious exercises to approach God. That is ritualism. That is what the other nine had recourse to; and, alas! it is where the mass of Christians are to this day.

      The Samaritan very likely was not what we call religiously brought up, but he learned grace. He could say, I am clear, and I certainly owe it to the one who cleared me, to own it to Himself that I am clear:but you will find, as he found, that he could not bring the flesh into Christ's presence. "No flesh shall glory in his presence." There is nothing I am more convinced of every day, even in one's prayers, that when there is a balk -  meaning to stop short of or avoid on purpose, a stone before the wheel, it is the flesh - oneself, in some form.

      Turn to Luke 5. Look at Peter, he was giving his time and his means for the lord's work until arrested by the presence of the son of God. Then he was confounded; "he fell down at Jesus' knees; saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O lord. "Though doing everything right at the time, he could not approach in the flesh. See also the prodigal son (Luke 15);" the Father kissed him; reconciliation was effected, yet he was not at liberty. You may know your sins are forgiven; but you may not enjoy the presence of God. Like the prodigal, you may know reconciliation, but you may not know that you are fit for the presence; of God. "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." That is reconciliation; that is the answer to the efficacy of the atonement. "And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." He is not happy in his presence, he has really to learn what Leviticus 14 is. You see the leper there had to go through a double washing -- I am not going into it, but I merely point to the scripture. He had to go through one washing in order to come into the camp; the place of God's government; and after being there seven days he had to go through another washing before he entered into the full bloom, if I may so say, of the work of the Messiah for approach. That is the type. In Luke 15 I get the practical thing in the man who is actually kissed. It is true of us all. Are you happy in the presence of God now? Well, you might say, I do not know; I feel I am a pardoned sinner.

      I have already remarked that if your faith only rests on what you are saved from, that you are only occupied with relief; but when you are occupied with what you are saved to, the Spirit of God carries you out into the wonderful expanse of divine blessing, which is yours.

      I come now to a subject of deep importance; it was not reconciliation that enabled the prodigal to go in. That which enabled him to go in is figuratively expressed here; it is renewing. (And when I say 'renewing,' I do not mean what the English word conveys, but I use the word as Scripture uses it. The scripture uses the word 'renew' as something entirely new, something you never had before -- "the renewing of the Holy Spirit," "the renewing of your mind," the inner man is renewed.") That is an entirely new thing, something he never had before, not a bit of it. You know it has been said by some commentators that the prodigal describes a backslider. But, I say, if he was a backslider and had thrown away grace, he did not get one bit back that he had thrown away. If he had thrown away grace, he would get back grace, but he did not get back what he had squandered; what he gets is entirely new.

      Many souls who are clear about reconciliation, are not clear about renewing. You have something entirely new; it is not merely that you have been cleared of the old, you must be free of the old; I am not dwelling on that side now, but on receiving the new; for, beloved friends, you cannot approach without it. That I have already alluded to.

In entering the holiest through the veil, you must come in new, you cannot enter in the old.

      Here it is stated in figure how the father removes the reluctance in the prodigal. He says to the servants, "Bring forth," that is, bring out of the house; "Bring forth the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet." These will make him sensibly suitable for Me. "A ring on his hand"; a mark of distinction; "and shoes on his feet," which shows that he was at home. You may say, It is a parable. True, but it is a parable that conveys wonderful doctrine. Do you ask, where is the doctrine? Well, the doctrine is in Colossians 1:12, "Giving thanks unto the Father, who hash made us MEET to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." The word 'meet' expresses the new state, that was the new thing. You cannot by any ritualism make the flesh fit to enter into the holiest. There never was a greater mistake than to suppose this possible.

      The veil, the Messiah's flesh, has been rent to open a new and living way for us into the holiest; but there is reluctance to enter until in the Messiah's life you are free from the law of sin. That is just what the Samaritan who came back expressed in figure, for when he got near him, he fell down on his face; but I am not dwelling now upon reckoning the old dead, but upon enjoying the new. Some may say, What is it? It is the Messiah in me, a nature that suits God, ever glad to be near Him, and thus I grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Messiah. I do not know how to explain it. It is ever growing; all of God; "that you may grow thereby." The outward man perishes, but the inner man is renewed. The prodigal son never had anything like this dress before it came out of the father's house; perfectly new, it is the "first "robe.

      Now turn to verse 10. I call your attention to that verse, because you find there, that the prodigal is in. You may say, How did he get in? Mark now the beauty of Scripture! It says first in the previous verse, "Bring forth," which shows that he was not in. Now a very important thing is presented, and that is, that it is not, when you go in that you are made fit to be there, but you are "made meet to be a partaker"; you are made fit to go in. Mark also that there is no interval allowed between being made fit, and being in. It says in the previous verse, "Bring forth," and now, in the next verse; without allowing any interval for the distance (which historically was a great one, because he was "a great way off" when the father saw him) the servants are told to clothe him; there is no interval; he is in. There is no interval allowed. Ponder that. The moment you are fit you are in. That is exactly what we get in Hebrews; it is the condition that suits the place; I am fit, and I am in. I dare say I do not convey it to you; but still, I believe that everyone who has gone in would say, I understand it perfectly. The moment I knew that I had the Spirit of Christ, I was in; I had nothing to do; I had not to expostulate, desire to be, or strive to be in; I was in. The prodigal son got in, and he was fit to go in.

      Now I turn back to Hebrews 10, I trust two things are clear to you; the right to go in, and the removal of the reluctance to go in, so that with the knowledge of the right, there is also the knowledge of fitness to enter.

      I will now dwell a little upon how you are within; what the sense is of being there, because I have no doubt that this will disclose whether we are in or not. It says, "Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." It is evident these two things are clearly and distinctly known as you draw near:your heart is sprinkled from an evil conscience, your body washed with pure water. I have no doubt at all that it takes in the two aspects of the cross. He "came by water, "and blood . . . not by water only, but by water and blood." It is the actual sense of a heart sprinkled from a wicked conscience, and the body washed with pure water.

      I think that we are often very practically defective in understanding that purification is by the Messiah's death, as well as expiation. Anyone who has studied the subject will at once see how appropriate this is, and will understand it. Therefore John insists upon it; He came "not by water only, but by water and blood." There is not only the remission of sins; the Messiah died for our sins; but there is the moral action of the word, setting me free from that which already was removed in the death of the Messiah. So I say you draw nigh in the sense that there is not a shade of sin upon you. I hope I shall not offend some of you when I say that when one gives out a hymn about his sins in a worship meeting, he has left the holiest, and he is not leading the congregation as in it. I say there is not a sin upon you, not a spot.

      The first thing is to enter. I cannot speak of losing a thing until I possess it. And be assured, once you have entered, that you have appropriated your right. It is not that you had not the right before; you had the right, but you have appropriated your right. You will never know the reality of worship until you know that your heart is sprinkled from an evil conscience, and your body washed with pure water. It is not a question at all of sin now, but of holiness. And that is a wonderful contrast. It is wonderful when I compare what is our portion now through the Messiah's work, and what it was before. All things are contrasted now. In the old dispensation, death was before the soul. Thank God, life out of death is before it now. It was sin then, it is holiness now. We are now to be "partakers of his holiness." May your hearts be exercised about this. You could not come into the holiest if any sin were on you; if you did, it would no longer be the holiest.

      Nothing can be plainer to a thoughtful person than that he could not come in with sin on him; the delight of being there would be lost, gone, if sin was before one there. Thank God, that I know the inconceivable delight of being in the presence of God. No spot there, all sense of sin gone; I have passed through the veil by the new and living way. Worship is not spoken of here; the things which occupy you there are not mentioned. The consecration is not described. Of course, only the consecrated company could enter in; but we are not told here how they are occupied.

      Now I turn to a question which often tries souls, and it is this, what about the sins which I may commit? I do not deny that we may sin, but I say, a worshipper once purged has no more conscience of sins; of course, when we sin or become defiled, we lose our enjoyment in the holiest; and this may happen very soon after being there, yet it is a very interesting fact, that the better you know the reality of being there, and the more fully you enjoy it, as long as the sense is fresh, the more careful you will be to keep yourself unspotted from the world.

      I am so sensible of the contrariety of everything here, I must be guided on every side. When we sin or are defiled, we are outside, we are not in the holiest. But remember, you cannot lose your right to be there; you never do lose the right. The consecration is only once and for ever. If you sin you must judge yourself; if you do not judge yourself, that which has done the offence will suffer for it; that accounts, no doubt, for many of our maladies here; I do not say for all.

      A man works his brain too much to make a fortune; very likely he will suffer in his brain if he does not judge himself. And if he judges himself he stops it; a man cannot judge a thing and go on with it. In Hebrews 12 it is different. There you are suffering for righteousness, and God uses the suffering to make you more separate, in order that you should be "partakers of his holiness." There we have to lay' aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us. "You have not yet resisted unto blood"; "you have not yet died, that is resisting unto blood" striving against sin."

      As in the stoning of Stephen; he was becoming practically more separate every minute. "We who live are always delivered unto death"; when anything is a hindrance to you, the Lord rolls in death upon it. If you feel it a hindrance, you are glad death has come in upon it. No matter what it is. Suppose a man has a voice for singing which is a snare to him; he loses his voice, and he can thank God for the loss; he knows the meaning of it.

      The Lord grant that each of us may know better what it is to be in the holiest, the delight of it. You get the idea in the case of the father and the prodigal. I know that only the Spirit of God can really lead your heart to understand it. But how wonderful to be in the presence of God without a spot or a shade, and to know that He delights to have us there!

      The Lord grant that each of us may know what approach is.

By J.B. Stoney [edited by Bruce Lyon]

Christ Formed in You

      I am crucified with the Messiah: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but the Messiah lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20.

The subject I desire to bring before you is THE MESSIAH FORMED IN 
YOU, of which the apostle speaks in this epistle, when he writes; "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until the Messiah be formed in you," Galatians 4:19. You must first know justification. You will not receive this great grace, "the Messiah formed in you," until you enjoy justification. Many here may think that they know justification. Justification is more than assurance through faith in the blood. You are justified when you believe that God has raised up the Messiah out from among the dead; he "was delivered for our offences, and was raised for our justification." Let me exercise your hearts a little as to the acceptance with God which you have found because of the resurrection of the Messiah. Have you learned that you are not only sheltered from the Judge by the blood of the Messiah, but that the man who was under the judgement of God has gone in death? If you believe this, it must be plain to you that the man under the judgement of God has been judicially ended in the cross of the Messiah. Hence the believer is not before God as the man who was under His judgement, but you, a believer, are before Him as the Messiah is; the MAN who bore the judgement and has been raised from among the dead by the glory of the Father. The Messiah glorified God in bearing the judgement. There is a MAN in glory at the right hand of God. If you study the latter part of Romans 5, you will see the difference between Adam and the Messiah. Adam was a figure of him that was to come, and "If by one man's offence death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus the Messiah." It becomes of the deepest importance whether you are accounted by God as the Messiah, the Man who has risen from among the dead, or as the man under the judgement of God. If you have accepted in faith that the Messiah has risen from among the dead, you must see that the man ended in the cross of the Messiah cannot appear before God. You must admit that our old man is crucified with the Messiah: you cannot make anything of a dead man. After the lord appeared unto Saul of Tarsus, for three days he neither ate nor drank. What was he doing? He had heard the voice of the lord; he had seen the light; there was no question as to the divine work in him; but what was he doing those three days? He was appropriating the Messiah's death. And that is where the great lack in souls is. Saul found that the only way to get clear of the man under judgement was through the death of the Messiah. And mind you, it was not that Saul was a wicked man, for he said, "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day"; but he had found the death of the Messiah the only way out of the man who could not stand in the light of God. The type of this was when Israel walked through the Red Sea. They did not make the way, they did not even find the way themselves; it was God's light that showed them the way, and it was God's hand that made the way, but they walked through it. I lay great stress upon that. I am speaking now of justification; I have not touched yet on the subject before me; because if you are not clear about justification, you will never understand what it is to have the Messiah formed in you; and unless the Messiah is formed in you you will never progress, you will never understand the things of the Messiah. It is necessary that you should have the Messiah formed in you before you can be in the order of things in which the Messiah is. You must first be established in grace.

      But to proceed with justification. God has now a Man before Him who has risen from among the dead; and righteousness is imputed unto us "if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our lord from the dead." The youngest here can understand that if you speak of resurrection you imply that one had died. But you must first see how God reveals the scope, the nature of His grace to you; that is, that He has sent His own son, and His own son has borne the judgement upon man, hence that man is judicially terminated in the cross in the eye of God for every one believing in the Messiah. Adam sinned and fell; but God has a Man before Him now who not only did all His pleasure, but glorified Him in the most distant spot in bearing the judgement upon man; and according to that Man He now deals with the believer. It is an immense thing to see how God was so glorified by Man that there was nothing to prevent His heart going out in all its own fullness, and delighting itself in receiving a returning prodigal; that is your acceptance. I want you to apprehend your acceptance. If you do, it must be upon this footing and no other, that the man under judgement has gone from the eye of God in judgement, and that you are as the Messiah is; if you believe that, you must see that you cannot improve the man who is gone from the eye of God; he cannot be dealt with. Saul could say that he had lived in all good conscience before God until this day. What did he find? He found he could not stand in the light of God's presence, he fell to the ground. And. what does he learn then? That through the death of the Messiah he is clear of himself; he learned "that in me [that is, in my flesh] dwells no good thing." As afterwards he could say, "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for the Messiah." It was not the bad things that he did that he counted loss, but the good things, what we call the naturally good qualities. Like the young man in the gospels; Luke 18. It is quite possible for a man to keep the five commandments that the lord asked him had he kept. The lord did not ask him his duty towards God at all; He asked him as to five commandments ; and he says, "All these have I kept from my youth up." Saul found that he could not stand in the presence of God though he had lived in all good conscience, because he was under the judgement of God. " If there had been a law which could have given life, truly righteousness should have been by the law." Now he found that there was no recognition of that man before God ; that man could not be maintained in the presence of God ; he finds he is clear of him in the death of the Messiah; and after three days he prays; he is dependent on God; and then comes Ananias to tell him, Receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
      Now I come to my subject. Saul received the Holy Spirit. Every one justified has received the Holy Spirit ; but I press first that God has removed everything to His own satisfaction and glory in the cross of the Lord Jesus the Messiah, and that He accepts the believer now according to the Messiah ; and therefore, "As he is, so are we in this world." That is the acceptance ; no fuller, no greater, could be ; it could not be altered nor improved. But now comes our side. God gives the Holy Spirit to you believing in the Messiah, that you may be in practical correspondence with all that He has effected for you.

      But before speaking of this, I must diverge a little, because I must look at the present state of many souls. I speak from my own experience. I long knew that everything had gone from the eye of God in the cross, and that to look up to Him was unspeakable satisfaction ; but when I looked at myself I did not see it gone; and many a sorrowful day was I trying to correct it. Still God's side remained perfectly true; all had gone from the eye of God in the cross, God had perfectly relieved His own heart about the returning prodigal, but I, like the prodigal, was not in moral correspondence with Him. I have said to myself in those days, 'Well, I believe that flesh is stronger than grace.' I dare not say it now; I am only giving you my experience in order to show you what one is liable to; for often we are enabled to help others by the way we have been helped ourselves. But the great thing to believe is, that God has not only removed all from His own eye in the cross, but He has given us the Holy Spirit that we might be in moral consistency with Himself. Otherwise it would be like the prodigal thinking; You are all happy about me, but I am not in keeping with you. But the father puts him in keeping with himself; he says: " Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet." That figuratively was Romans 8, because there you are in the Messiah, and there is no condemnation to them who are in the Messiah; and " the law of the Spirit of life in the Messiah Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." My mistake, and the mistake of many others, was in trying to improve myself. How often I have tested people since, by asking them, Are you ever disappointed with yourself? Oh! they say in the most contrite way, Indeed I am. That shows they have not done with themselves, or they would not be trying to improve themselves. I shall have to show you presently that the very best quality of man does not like the Messiah" They that are in the flesh cannot please God."

      Now we have come to a great point ; that is, that the Spirit of God is given to every one justified. In Romans 5 we are justified by faith ; that is, I believe, that God has set me before His own eye according to His pleasure in the Messiah Jesus, and "therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this favor [grace] wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." I need not tell you that the first eleven verses of that chapter describe the terms on which God is with you; chapter 8 describes the state in which you are before Him: that is the difference. In Romans 8 it is not faith. Many have a loose way of looking at deliverance through substituting faith for the Spirit. Faith is for Gods side. Why? Because God never alters; His satisfaction in the work of the Messiah remains for ever. He has expressed His love, and that love is co-existent with Himself; it never alters. He never revives what has been set aside in the cross, and He can now cover with kisses the returning prodigal.

      But now I come to our side. If you read Romans 8:2, you will see, "The law of the Spirit of life in the Messiah Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death"; that is what I would insist upon. What was the mistake I made? I was trying to improve myself, instead of seeing that the Spirit of God has set me free. The first thirteen verses of Romans 8 show you that you are free from the flesh. In that chapter you learn what the Messiah is to you. You first learn the work of the Messiah, and you are attached to him because of the work he has done for you; every believer knows that. But believe me, there is a much deeper affection than that; it comes out in the end of Romans 8, that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Why? Because the Messiah is your life.

      The first trouble that a believer finds is innate sin. This Romans 7 sets forth; "When I would do good evil is present with me." In Romans 7 there is a divine work in the soul but justification is not known; the power of the Spirit is not known. The defect with myself was, that I did not see that the Spirit of God would set me free. If you read on in Romans 8, you find, "If you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body"; why the deeds? Because we are first occupied with what we do; conscience is at work, and a man's conscience does not go beyond his light. But first I want to show you that you judge of your conduct by your conscience. You will hear people say, I did not do so and so, because it is contrary to my conscience. That is according to the light, and that is the first exercise. Hence we find, "If you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live." But then it is by the Spirit one mortifies, that is the point; and I hope you will lay hold of this fact tonight. First that the man under judgement has gone from the eye of God. I see little papers about self-culture and self-control. Self-control! It is the Spirit of God that is to control you, not yourself. You may fit yourself, in a sense, for man; but you will find, if you really get hold of the first part of this verse, "I am crucified with the Messiah," your individual experience, that it is not simply that man has gone in the cross in the eye of God; our old man crucified with him, as in Romans 6:6: .... but I am crucified; how could you improve a thing that is crucified? If I had not gone through the experience myself, I should be puzzled about it; but I see it now very plainly, that as that man has gone from the eye of God, with that man I cannot deal. On the contrary, though here in the flesh, I do not walk after the flesh. Now I desire to set forth how the Messiah is formed in you. I believe it is most wonderful to know that the Messiah lives in you. But it is with him you have to do, not yourself. If it be yourself you are thinking about how you behave, and if you are seeking to improve, you doubtless think, Well, if I get another opportunity, I hope I shall behave better. If you knew yourself, you would not think so. Why? Because you would fear that you would behave worse. But if you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. I press this, that faith lays hold of this great fact, that God accepts me on the ground of the Messiah, and that He never loses His own feeling about me, because of the work which has been effected by the son of His love. But besides this, He has given me the Holy Spirit that I might be in practical keeping with Him; and as I walk in the Spirit I do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh; I have in me a power superior to the flesh. "The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye may not do " -- it is not 'you cannot'; our translators could not see the greatness of it -- " that you may not do the things that you would." The position of the believer is wonderful; that God has in the cross removed from His own eye the man under judgment. I lay hold of that by faith; but besides, He has given me the Holy Spirit, so that I may be free; "The law of the Spirit of life in the Messiah Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own son in the likeness of flesh of sin, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteous claim of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." (I have altered the translation a little in order to give the correct idea.) To the eye of God you are not looked upon as in the flesh, but in the Spirit. A person may say to me, How am I to get on in daily life? That is the latter part of the verse, and I have not come to that yet; I hope to refer to it another time. But if you have not the first part; the Messiah formed in you; you certainly will not know how to act as the Messiah in his path among men.

      I turn now to the latter part of Galatians 4; "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what says the Scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free-woman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." I can understand an exercised soul asking, and it is a very interesting question. But when does that happy moment occur when the Messiah really gets His place in my heart? Well, up to this I have only asked you to accept that this is his place; that the man born after the flesh must go out, must not be tolerated. The Corinthians and the Galatians were both defective: the one, the Corinthians, in giving place to the mind of man; and many like them think there is no harm in the pleasures of the mind who would think that there is a great deal of harm in the pleasures of the flesh; the Galatians, on the other hand, were trying to improve or check the flesh by the law. Both had received the Holy Spirit. The Galatians had received the Holy Spirit, but they were trying to correct the flesh. It is very interesting to note that the way the apostle corrects both the Corinthians and the Galatians is by putting the Messiah in his place. To the Corinthians the lord's glory is presented (and there is no place for their own wisdom there) to bring them into moral correspondence with him, and the effect is, as in 2 Corinthians 4, to be "always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." That was the effect on the apostle. With the Galatians the apostle uses the type of the weaning of Isaac to illustrate what he is setting forth. You remember that in Genesis 21 Ishmael was about fourteen years of age when Isaac was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast for him; it was a festive moment when Isaac was to be acknowledged in his rightful place in the house. And I say, and I thank God for it, that there is a moment in the history of the soul when you are so drawn to the Messiaht, not merely because of his work, but you have tasted the truth of the passage I have read; "The Messiah lives in me." He is with you personally; it is this which really attaches you to him. I get in Romans 6 the way it begins "Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin; but alive unto God in the Messiah Jesus." You are severed from Adam (the man who brought you under death) by the Messiah's death, and you have found life in the Messiah himself, and there you have wonderful and unspeakable rest. You "reign in life by one, Jesus the Messiah," Romans 5. You were under death 'by one man, Adam; you get life in the Messiah; you have passed "out of death into life," as we read in John 5:24. Our translators put "from death" instead of "out of death," because they could not catch the importance of having passed "out of death"; for if you say "out of death," you admit that you were in death. And that is exactly what is true; you are in death by nature. In Adam all die; but the Messiah is our life. It is here many are puzzled. "This do and you shall live" was law; it was addressed to the old man; but in order to get life you must pass out of Adam and find it in the Messiah; and here all the difficulty lies.

      Now you find from this verse that there is a moment when Christ gets his right place. We sing sometimes

      "...You are enough
      The mind and heart to fill."

      Did you ever know that moment? It is a very simple question to ask. I am not asking you to do anything, to arrive at any perfection in yourself, or anything of that kind; but simply to acknowledge Christ's right. It is His right; but do you acknowledge tonight that He has the right to live in you? That like Isaac, he is the rightful heir, and the One only to be acknowledged. In Oriental fashion ail in the house acknowledged Isaac except Ishmael, who was the son of Abraham, about fourteen years of age, brought up in all the culture and elevation that Abraham knew, and he mocked, "He that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit." That is man; the cultivated man does not like the Messiah. I know well the painful exercise of Romans 7; even to find that you are incompetent to keep the law. But believe me, Galatians 4 is a much more painful experience, even to find that the best quality in your nature does not like Christ; it is a terrible experience that the amiable and most commendable quality in your nature does not like Christ. But when was this discovered? When the Messiah was given his right place, when his right is acknowledged; right to the office, right to the study, right to the nursery, right to everything in your heart. He has redeemed you; he has the right to you. Hence the apostle says, "I am crucified with the Messiah; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but the Messiah lives in me." Another Person the Messiah, lives in me. I do not ask you if you are attached to him; but I do ask, Do you acknowledge him? I believe, as I said, there is a moment when you are so entranced with the blessedness of the Messiah, that you can truly say to him, This is your rightful place; I acknowledge it. And that is the moment when there is no toleration for Ishmael. There is the acknowledgement of the One and no toleration of the other; Ishmael is cast out.

      Now I have to show you that your practical course will then be quite different. It is not your conscience merely which is the arbiter of everything, but it is the Messiah himself and all that suits him. You may say, This or that is not contrary to my conscience. A man of great integrity may say so, but he has not come to the inexpressible momentl I call it the coronation dayl when the Messiah is acknowledged in his right place in his heart. The throne shall be established in righteousness; and the moment you have done rightly, you know you are right; you are confirmed in it. Consider the greatness of the moment when the Messiah has in you His right place! See how thoroughly you can now enjoy the "great supper," the celebration of grace; you are now fit for it, and you make merry.

      I hope it is so simple that the youngest believer here will follow it. You acknowledge that the Messiah has the right to all, and that Ishmael, the son of Abraham, the cultivated man, the man brought up under the law, must be cast out. "Cast out the bondwoman and her son." Now, in Galatians 5:1 we read, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith the Messiah  has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." You are on a new footing now; the Messiah is the arbiter of everything.

      In John 13 the Lord says, "If I wash you not, you have no part with me." Who is to be judge of a soil? A great many walk with a good conscience who are not near enough to the Messiah to have their feet washed. When you are in intimacy with the Messiah, he is the judge of the soil. He knows the causes of the cloud between him and you. These two states are clearly expressed in the type of the cleansing of the leper; Leviticus 14. After the first washing the leper came into the camp; that is, his own conscience was relieved. But on the eighth day after this he had to go through all the offerings and the anointing, then typically he was brought to God. It is not merely your conscience now, but you look at everything as the Messiah does. Hence the apostle Paul can say in the last chapter of this epistle, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus the Messiah." I remember once being in a company, and they seemed quite astonished because I said, There is nothing about your sins in that passage, but about yourself. "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Both are gone; that is, "crucified," judicially ended. "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor un-circumcision, but a new creation." You are a new creation.

      Now when you come to this, you see that to give the Messiah his place is simply the only right thing. Many are trying to improve this world; but if you think of righteousness, there cannot be righteousness in the full sense in this world, or in myself, till the Messiah gets his right place. I do not ask you to do any great work or to do any particular service; but I am asking each of you to avow, "I am crucified with the Messiah" (judicially terminated), "nevertheless I live, yet not I, but the Messiah lives in me"; and now I judge of everything in relation to him.

      I need not dwell further on it, but I trust many here will see what a blessed moment it is when the Messiah gets His right place in the heart. I have often said to myself, Ishmael knows the house well, and will try to regain his place. Yes, but I have got a' power to keep him out, I have received the Holy Spirit, I must walk in the Spirit. You may say, What do you mean by walking in the Spirit? That is a very good question to be exercised about. I will give you a simple illustration to show you what I understand by it. A sailor, when asked, 'How do you get on in bad weather? 'replied,' I do not mind the weather so long as I can see the sun.' When I am walking in the Spirit I see the Messiah only. If I am going to do my business, who is before me? The Messiah. If I am going out to visit, who is before me? The Messiah. If I am going to write a letter, be it one of business or otherwise, who is before me? The Messiah. This refers to the wilderness; that is the latter part of the verse, "The life which I now live in the flesh." But you must begin above. Nothing has done more mischief than trying to work up from man to God, instead of working down from God to man.

All the infidelity in Christendom has arisen simply from working upward from man, instead of working downwards from God.

      Now for another deeply interesting point. As soon as the Messiah has his right place in you, His things become yours. And now you can understand that word, "If I wash you not, you have no part with me." How cheering that saying must have been to the disciples, because they were personally attached to him. It is not a question of any work, or any effort, but that you are personally attached to him; he is your life, He lives in you. You may say, Oh, that is very great. Yes, but surely everything of grace is great.

      Necessarily now everything which is interesting to the Messiah becomes interesting to you. I do not believe that any one truly finds his way to the assembly who has not found Christ as the object of his heart. If the Messiah is not formed in you, he is not the object of your heart; and if the Messiah is the object of your heart, you come to this "living stone, disallowed indeed of men"; you leave the ship to walk on the water to go to Jesus. And until the Messiah is formed in you, you will never progress; you are not intimately acquainted with the Messiah till then. Many a believer has not yet acknowledged the Messiah in His own rightful place in his heart, and until you do you cannot be occupied with the things which are interesting to the Messiah here on earth. He could not confide in you if you have not given him his place. And consequently you have not found your own true enjoyment, you are not in keeping with all God has done for you. Would it not be a delight to you to retire to your own room tonight, and be able to say, Well, God has removed everything of the man under His Judgement from His own eye in the cross, and has given me the Holy Spirit, and I am before Him in the One who has glorified Him in the cross, and that One is my life. All this is for your own unspeakable comfort. At another time, if the Lord will, when we come to the Christian circle and the head, you will find how he ministers to you.

      I conclude with one remark. If you do not know the Messiah living in you for yourself, you cannot really enter on the wilderness path. We need to understand how the grace of God enables us to be here.

      I trust the Lord, in his own gracious care for us all, will lead you to accept the two things I have brought before you, which are not beyond the compass of the youngest Christian in this room. First, to acknowledge the Messiah in his right place, and then not to tolerate his rival. How is the rival to be kept out? By the Spirit of God. You must walk in the Spirit. If you do, you will not be thinking of yourself, or of what you are; you will be occupied with the Messiah; you will learn all that the Spirit of God is for you in Romans 8. In fine, He is your friend, He "makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered." May we all look more for the help of that great Friend, and the power of that Friend.

written by J.B. Stoney [edited by Bruce Lyon]

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Visible Means Hinder Faith

To attempt to do anything without either visible means, or faith in Him who is invisible, is foolish and will end in failure.

The presence and use of visible means satisfy and assure the natural mind, and therefore self-reliance, however you may try to silence it, is acquired from the possession of means.

It is plain that nothing can be done without one or the other. There must be either visible means to rest on, or there must be faith in the Invisible; and the tendency of every saint is to be so buoyed up by the possession of visible means, that the invisible is disregarded and overlooked.

A man feels a self-confidence, and a sense of superiority in himself, when he is the possessor of effectual means; and, as he is, he is diverted from seeking or enjoying the invisible power.
Faith counts on God when there is no such possession – no means.
When Eve was influenced by what was visible, she had in heart given up God, for the influence of visible means emboldened her heart to turn from the word of God.

Now this is an influence which must ever address and ensnare the natural man; and hence faith in God, counting on Him who is invisible, was never connected with visible means; nay, it enabled the saint to act according to God, in spite of being opposed by the greatest visible means, thus showing that there was invisible power where there was no visible means; for visible means are a support to the possessor of them, and thus they take the place of faith.

In every instance we see that when faith works, it is independent of visible means. Abram is called to break with all visible supports, and to come into the "land that I will shew thee". "And he went out, not knowing whither he went".

No one will deny that faith acts independently of means; but what I desire to show is, that visible means hinder faith, when possessed and used by the saint; though, to the man of faith, they are as nothing, when in the hands of his opponent.

The green fields of Sodom met the eye of Lot, when he turned from faith. The visible becomes the ready support and attraction of the heart that drops from faith.

The difficulty is to be superior to the visible thing; and yet the heart of man is ever seduced by it, and he acquires confidence and consequence as he possesses it, but possession of it obscures faith.
Israel forfeited their highest favour, because in seeking visible support, they refused to keep the sabbatical year.

When they were captives in Babylon, and all visible means were in the hands of their enemies, then the faithful realized and testified that the power was invisible – that God was for them.

The great kings had fire and lions wherewith to torture them, and make their power felt; but notwithstanding all, the power was with the servants of God. Fire is the greatest natural force, the lion is the strongest and fiercest of animals, but both were ineffectual before the invisible power.

Since man's departure from God originated in his being alienated from Him by visible things, it must be the greatest evidence of restoration and new life when it is not the visible but the invisible, which sways him. Hence

"whatever is not of faith is sin".

If we turn to the scene of the thief on the cross, there we find grace coming forth in all its beauty and strength, rescuing the one degraded among men, by disclosing to his heart the Lamb of God,even He who died "the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God".

The thief was not only enlightened in soul by beholding his Savior in the Man who had "done nothing amiss", but also assured in heart that he would at the resurrection be with Him in the paradise of God.

Visible means, then and there, were in great combination to exterminate both, while the invisible was accomplishing the greatest and most wonderful results; even in man being righteously delivered from judgment and the polluted place.

What a triumph of the invisible power! Here all the means at man's disposal are used against God; and they betray an accommodation to man's evil which stamps them with their true character. They not only suit the natural man, but they support him against God.

When our Lord warned His disciples, on the eve of His rejection, to remember Lot's wife, Luke 17:32, He taught them, chapter 13, that helplessness of any kind – the absence of any visible means, would not be their hindrance.

Suffering or distress, exemplified in the case of the widow, should not tend to make them like Lot's wife. The powerless one, the little child, was the only one sure to enter the kingdom of God.
But the one with possession of things visible is the one who is really hindered from entering.

However, if we surrender the hindrance, be it house, land, or anything else, verse 29, we shall have a present reward; but if we retain it, some day or other it will be our scourge.

At all events, at our Lord's death, the question of visible means, and of invisible power, was settled for every awakened soul.

Man and all his force was against Christ, and it appeared to succeed according to his evil purpose, but God triumphed over it all, and secured eternal blessings for man, while he betrayed his full evil and venom in directing all the means given him of God to put His Son to death.

This culminating act of man's evil ought to teach us how the power God gave man is subject to man, and used by him for the worst purposes.
It was given to Noah to repress evil, and now man has disqualified himself for ever from holding power, seeing that he has used all he had, to crucify the Son of God.

Next, when we turn to the scene of Stephen's martyrdom, we see how all visible forces were directed against him in vain.

Apparently he was left unsupported and friendless, and yet never was any man more sustained by the invisible power; "being full of the Holy Spirit, having fixed his eyes on heaven, he saw the glory of God, and Jesus".

He is at ease in the heavenly glory. Neither the gnashing of the teeth of the solemn council – the great religious conclave – nor the pain inflicted by the stoning of his body, in the least overcame him;
he was not only tranquil and composed, but able to act for others. He knelt down and prayed for them, so superior was he to all their fierce combination.

As man had closed all hope for himself as a mere man at the cross, so now all hope for the Jew on earth is closed at the death of Stephen, and the mantle of Stephen must be worn by every true saint now;

that is, he must see that there is nought but death here, but that there is the bright glory with Jesus above, apart from any earthly hope.

Now, when I come to the close of Paul's life, I learn another thing. Again, all the visible means are against him, and all his friends forsake him.

"At my first answer", he writes, "no man stood with me, but all men forsook me … Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever", 2 Timothy 4: 16-18.

He was on trial before the Roman tribunal; the saints were so intimidated that they forsook him; he had no visible support, but the Lord stood by him, and strengthened him.

This is the view we get of the apostle, and I believe that, according as we are faithful, his mantle, as he is seen in this juncture, will fall upon us.

All visible means here against us, even the desertion of our brethren, but if truly for the Lord, He will stand beside us, and though with hearts sorrowing for those who forsake us, yet we shall be encouraged, and enabled to maintain the proclamation of the truth, in deep, unquestioning assurance that we shall be delivered from every evil work, and preserved unto His heavenly kingdom.

It only remains for me to notice the close of the history of the assembly up to the Lord's coming.

Philadelphia and Laodicea run down to the end in parallel streams. The former is characterized by having a "little power", but it is invisible; the latter, by what is visible.

It has a great deal to say for itself, but Christ is outside the visible thing; the possessions have diverted the heart from Christ, and they boast themselves of having property, while they have not divine power.

In Babylon's day there will be, as we have seen, assertion and assumption of all power; but our privilege is that we have power superior to all visible means; and our greatest glory here is to maintain, that, like Moses of old, we can endure as seeing Him who is invisible, and that when there is nothing to support or prop up the natural mind, we are happily dependent upon the invisible power;
and that it is easier to do so when there is nothing to tempt or delude us; for when we have nothing, we can trust the Lord for everything.

May the Lord teach us, and lead us on in this most blessed exercise and privilege, for His name's sake.