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7 Nevertheless I tell you the Truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.
8 And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on Me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
13 Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all Truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come.
14 He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.
15 All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you.
16 A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me, because I go to the Father.
17 Then said some of His disciples among themselves, What is this that He saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me: and, Because I go to the Father?
18 They said therefore, What is this that He saith, A little while? we cannot tell what He saith.
19 Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask Him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me?
20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
22 And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
23 And in that day ye shall ask Me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, He will give it you.
24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My Name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father.
26 At that day ye shall ask in My Name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from G.o.d.
28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
29 His disciples said unto Him, Lo, now speakest Thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.
30 Now are we sure that Thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask Thee: by this we believe that Thou camest forth from G.o.d.
31 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?
32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.
33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Now, we have looked at this high privilege which is for all, so we pa.s.s on to consider our second point: The Low Experience of many of G.o.d's dear children. What is it? Just living in poverty and starvation. The eider son, the child of a rich man, living in utter poverty!-- never had a kid, Luke 15 29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: while all that was his father's was his just exactly the state of many a child of G.o.d. The way He wants us to live is in the fullest fellowship of all His blessings, yet what a contrast!
Ask some if their lives are full of joy; why, they don't even believe it is possible to be always happy and holy. "How could we get on thus in business?" they say; and they imagine that the life of fullest blessing possible to them must be one of sighing and sadness and sorrow.
I asked a dear woman at the Cape, a devoted Christian woman, how she was getting on. She answered that in her experience it was sometimes light and sometimes darkness, and argued that, as this was so in nature, the same thing held good in the kingdom of grace. So she just gave herself up to a wretched experience. But I don't read in the Bible that there is to be any night or darkness in the believers experience; on the contrary, I read, "thy sun shall no more go down" [Isaiah 60:20]; yet there are many who actually believe that there is nothing so good for them. As I said already, nothing can hide G.o.d from us but sin and unbelief nothing can hide G.o.d from us but sin and unbelief. If you are in spiritual poverty, and there is no joy, no experience of victory over sin, temper, wandering, why is it so? "Oh," you say, "I'm too weak, I must fall." But does not the Scripture say that He is "able to keep you from falling [(stumbling)]"? [Jude 24]. A minister once told me that, although G.o.d is able, the verse does not say He is willing to do it. G.o.d does not mock us, beloved; if He says He is "able," then it is a proof of His willingness to do it. Do let us believe G.o.d's Word and examine our own experience in the light of it.
Again, are you working and bearing much fruit for G.o.d, and do people by your life see and say, "G.o.d is with that man, keeping him humble, pure, and heavenly minded"? Or are they forced to confess that you are just a very ordinary Christian, easily provoked, worldly, and not heavenly minded? That is not the life G.o.d wants us to live, brethren. We have a rich Father, and as no true earthly father would like to see his child in rags, or without shoes and proper clothing, etc., neither does our G.o.d; but He wishes to fill up our life with richest and choicest blessings. How many Sunday school teachers there are who teach, and teach, and hope for the conversion of their scholars, but yet they cant say G.o.d uses them to the conversion of any of them. They enjoy no close fellowship with G.o.d, no victory over sin, no power to convince the world. To which cla.s.s do you belong? The low-level, or the fully possessed? Confess it today. These two sons represent two cla.s.ses of Christians: the prodigal away backslidden; the elder son out of full fellowship with G.o.d. They were alike poor, and the elder son needed as great a change as did the prodigal; he needed to repent and confess and claim his full privileges; and so ought all low-level Christians to repent, confess, and claim full salvation. Oh, both of you, come today and say, "Father, I have sinned" [Luke 15:18].
Now, we ask, What is the cause of this terrible discrepancy? Why the great difference in the experience, I wonder? Ask yourself, "What is the reason I am not enjoying this full blessing?
G.o.d's Word speaks of it, others speak of it, and I see some who are living in it." Oh, do ask the reason; come to G.o.d and say: "Why is it I never live the life You want me to live?"
You will find the answer in our story. The elder son had an un-childlike spirit, and entertained wrong thoughts about his father; and, if you had known the real character of your Father, your life would have been all right. You have, as it were, said, "I never got a kid to make merry; my Father is rich, but He never gives. I have prayed quite enough, but G.o.d does not answer me. I hear other people say that G.o.d fills and satisfies them, but He never does that for me."
A dear minister told me once that such a life was not for everybody, that it was of G.o.d's sovereignty to give this to whomsoever He pleased. Friends, there is no doubt as to G.o.d's sovereignty. He dispenses His gifts as He will; we are not all Pauls or Peters; places at the right and left hand of G.o.d are prepared for whomsoever He will. But this is not a matter of divine sovereignty; it is a question of a child's heritage. The Father's love offers to give to every child in actual experience His full salvation. Now look at an earthly father. His children are of various ages, but all have equal right to the joy of their father's countenance.
True, he gives to his son of twenty years more money than to the son of five, and he has more to speak of to the boy of fifteen than to the child of three; but, as regards his love toward them, it is all the same, and in their privileges as children they are all alike. And G.o.d's love to His dear children is all the same. Oh, do not try to throw the blame on G.o.d, but say, "I have had hard thoughts of Thee, O G.o.d, and I have sinned. As a father I have done for my children what I did not believe G.o.d was able and willing to do for me, and I have been lacking in childlike faith." Oh, do believe in the love, the willingness and power of G.o.d to give you full salvation, and a change must surely come.
Now let us consider the Way of Restoration: how to get out of this poor experience. The prodigal repented and so must those children of G.o.d who have been living within sight of, but not enjoying, His promises. Conversion is generally sudden and a long repentance is usually a long impenitence. Many in the Church of Christ think it must take a long time to get into full salvation. Yes, it will take a long time if you are to do it yourself indeed, you never will. No, no, friend, if you come and trust G.o.d it can be done in a moment. By G.o.d's grace give yourself up to Him. Don't say, "What's the use? It will do no good"; but put yourself, as you are in sin and weakness, into the bosom of your Father. G.o.d will deliver you, and you will find that it is only one step out of the darkness into the light. Say, "Father, what a wretch I have been, in being with Thee and yet not believing Thy love to me!"
Yes, I come today with a call to "repent;" addressed, not to the unsaved, but to those who know what it is to be pardoned. For have you not sinned in the hard thoughts you have had of G.o.d, and is there not a longing, a thirsting and hungering after something better? Come, then, repent, and just believe that G.o.d does blot out the sin of your unbelief. Do you believe it?
Oh, do not dishonor G.o.d by unbelief, but come today and confidently claim full salvation.
Then trust in Him to keep you. This seems difficult to some; but there is no difficulty about it. G.o.d will shine His light upon you always, saying, "Son, thou art ever with me"; and all you have to do is to dwell in and walk in that light.
I began by saying there are two cla.s.ses of Christians: those who enjoy full salvation, and those who do not understand about it. Well, if it is not clear to you, ask G.o.d to make it clear.
But if you do understand about it, remember it is a definite act. Just let yourself go into the arms of G.o.d; hear Him say, "All is thine"; then you say, "Praise G.o.d, I believe, I accept, I give up myself to Him, and I believe G.o.d gives Himself now to me!"
YE ARE THE BRANCHES.
"Ye are the branches"
What a simple thing it is to be a branch the branch of a tree, or the branch of a vine! The branch grows out of the vine, or out of the tree, and there it lives and in due time bears fruit.
It has no responsibility except just to receive from the root and stem sap and nourishment.
And if we only by the Holy Spirit knew our relationship to Jesus Christ, our work would be changed into the brightest and most heavenly thing upon earth. Instead of there ever being soul-weariness or exhaustion, our work would be like a new experience, linking us to Jesus as nothing else can. For, alas! is it not often true that our work comes between us and Jesus?
What folly! The very work He has to do in me, and I for Him, I take up in such a way that it separates me from Christ. Many a laborer in the vineyard has complained that he has too much work, and no time for close communion with Jesus, and that his usual work weakens his inclination for prayer, and that his too much intercourse with men darkens the spiritual life. Sad thought, that the bearing of fruit should separate the branch from the vine! That must be because we have looked upon our work as something else than the branch bearing fruit. May G.o.d deliver us from every false thought about the Christian life!
Now, just a few thoughts about this blessed branch-life.
*In the first place it is a life of absolute dependence. The branch has nothing: it just depends upon the vine for everything. That word, absolute dependence, is one of the most solemn and large and precious of words. A great German theologian wrote two large volumes some years ago, to show that the whole of Calvin's theology is summed up in that one principle of absolute dependence upon G.o.d; and he was right. If you can learn every moment of the day to depend upon G.o.d, everything will come right.
You will get the higher life if you depend absolutely upon G.o.d.
Must I understand that when I have got to work, when I have to preach a sermon, or address a Bible cla.s.s, or go out and visit the poor neglected ones, that all the responsibility of the work is on Christ?
That is exactly what Christ wants you to understand. Christ desires that in all your work the very foundation should be the simple, blessed consciousness: Christ must care for all.
And how does He fulfill the trust of that dependence? He does it by sending down the Holy Spirit now and then only as a special gift, for remember the relation between the vine and the branches is such that hourly, daily, unceasingly, there is the living connection maintained. The sap does not flow for a time, and then stop, and then flow again, but from moment to moment the sap flows from the vine to the branches. And just so, my Lord Jesus wants me to take that blessed position as a worker, and, morning by morning and day by day and hour by hour and step by step, in every work I have to go out to, just to abide before Him in the simple, utter helplessness of one who knows nothing, and is nothing, and can do nothing.
Absolute dependence upon G.o.d is the secret of all power in work. The branch has nothing but what it gets from the vine, and you and I can have nothing but what we get from Jesus.
*But secondly, the life of the branch is not only a life of entire dependence, but of deep restfulness. Oh, that little branch, if it could think, and if it could feel, and if it could speak and if we could have a little branch today to talk to us, and if we would say: "Come, branch of the vine, tell me, I want to learn from thee how I can be a true branch of the living Vine," what would it answer? The little branch would whisper: "Man, I hear that you are wise, and I know that you can do a great many wonderful things. I know you have much strength and wisdom given to you, but I have one lesson for you. With all your hurry and effort in Christ's work you never prosper. The first thing you need is to come and rest in your Lord Jesus. That is what I do. Since I grew out of that vine I have spent years and years, and all I have done is just to rest in the vine. When the time of spring came I had no anxious thought nor care. The vine began to pour its sap into me, and to give the bud and leaf. And when the time of summer came I had no care, and in the great heat I trusted the vine to bring moisture to keep me fresh. And in the time of harvest, when the owner came to pluck the grapes, I had no care. If there was anything in the grapes not good, the owner never blamed the branch; the blame was always on the vine. And if you would be a true branch of Christ, the living Vine, just rest on Him. Let Christ bear the responsibility."
You say: "Won't that make me slothful?" I tell you it will not. No one who learns to rest upon the living Christ can become slothful, for the closer your contact with Christ the more of the Spirit of His zeal and love will be borne in upon you.
But, oh! begin to work in the midst of your entire dependence by adding to it deep restfulness. A man sometimes tries and tries to be dependent upon Christ, but he worries himself about this absolute dependence: he tries and he cannot get it. But let him sink down into entire restfulness every day.
Rest in Christ, who can give wisdom and strength, and you do not know how that restfulness will often prove to be the very best part of your message. You plead with people and you argue, and they get the idea: There is a man arguing and striving with me. They only feel: Here are two men dealing with each other. But if you will let the deep rest of G.o.d come over you, the rest in Christ Jesus, the peace and rest and holiness of heaven, that restfulness will bring a blessing to the heart, even more than the words you speak.
*But a third thought. The branch teaches a lesson of much fruitfulness. You know the Lord Jesus repeated that word fruit often in that parable; He spoke first of fruit, and then of more fruit, and then of much fruit. Yes, you are ordained not only to bear fruit, but to bear much fruit. "Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit"
[John 15:8]. In the first place, Christ said: "'I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman' who has charge of Me and you." He who will watch over the connection between Christ and the branches is G.o.d; and it is in the power of G.o.d, through Christ, that we are to bear fruit.
O Christians! you know this world is perishing for the lack of workers. And it needs not only more workers. The workers are saying, some more earnestly than others, "We need not only more workers, but we need that our workers should have a new power, a different life-- that the workers should be able to bring more blessing."
What is wanting? There is wanting the close connection between the worker and the heavenly Vine. Christ, the heavenly Vine, has blessings that He could pour on tens of thousands who are perishing. Christ, the, heavenly Vine, has power to provide the heavenly grapes. But "ye are the branches," and you cannot bear heavenly fruit unless you are in close connection with Jesus Christ.
Do not confound work and fruit. There may be a good deal of work for Christ that is not the fruit of the heavenly Vine. Do not seek for work only. Oh! study this question of fruit-bearing. It means the very life and the very power and the very Spirit and the very love within the heart of the Son of G.o.d. It means the heavenly Vine Himself coming into your heart and mine.
Stand in close connection with the heavenly Vine and say: "Lord Jesus, nothing less than the sap that flows through Thyself, nothing less than the Spirit of Thy divine life is what we ask. Lord Jesus, I pray Thee let Thy Spirit flow through me in all my work for Thee."
I tell you again that the sap of the heavenly Vine is nothing but the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is nothing but the life of the heavenly Vine, and what you must get from Christ is nothing less than a strong inflow of the Holy Spirit. You need it exceedingly, and you want nothing more than that. Remember that. Do not expect Christ to give a bit of strength here, and a bit of blessing yonder, and a bit of help over there. As the vine does its work in giving its own peculiar sap to the branch, so expect Christ to give His own Holy Spirit into your heart, and then you will bear much fruit. And if you have only begun to bear fruit, and are listening to the word of Christ in the parable, "more fruit," "much fruit," remember that in order that you should bear more fruit you just require more of Jesus in your life and heart.
*A fourth thought. The life of the branch is a life of close communion. Let us again ask: "What has the branch to do?" You know that precious, inexhaustible word that Christ used: "Abide."
John 15 4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me."
Your life is to be an abiding life. And how is the abiding to be? It is to be just like the branch in the vine, abiding every minute of the day. There are the branches, in close communion, in unbroken communion, with the vine, from January to December. And cannot I live every day-- It is to me an almost terrible thing that we should ask the question-- cannot I live in abiding communion with the heavenly Vine? You say, "But I am so much occupied with other things." You may have ten hours hard work daily, during which your brain has to be occupied with temporal things; G.o.d orders it so. But the abiding work is the work of the heart, not of the brain, the work of the heart clinging to and resting in Jesus, a work in which the Holy Spirit links us to Christ Jesus. Oh, do believe that deeper down than the brain, deep down in the inner life, you can abide in Christ, so that every moment you are free the consciousness will come: Blessed Jesus, I am still in Thee. If you will learn for a time to put aside other work and to get into this abiding contact with the heavenly Vine, you will find that fruit will come.
What is the application to our life with regard to this abiding communion? What does it mean? It means close fellowship with Christ in secret prayer. I am sure there are Christians who do long for the higher life, and who sometimes have got a great blessing, and have at times found a great inflow of heavenly joy and a great outflow of heavenly gladness; and yet after a time it has pa.s.sed away. They have not understood that close, personal, actual communion with Christ is an absolute necessity for daily life. Take time to be alone with Christ. Nothing in heaven or earth can free you from the necessity for that, if you are to be happy and holy Christians.
Oh, how many Christians look upon it as a burden, and a tax, and a duty, and a difficulty to get much alone with G.o.d! That is the great hindrance to our Christian life everywhere. We need more quiet fellowship with G.o.d, and I tell you in the name of the heavenly Vine that you cannot be healthy branches, branches into which the heavenly sap can flow, unless you take plenty of time for communion with G.o.d. If you are not willing to sacrifice time to get alone with Him, and give Him time every day to work in you, and to keep up the link of connection between you and Himself, He cannot give you that blessing of His unbroken fellowship. Jesus Christ asks you to live in close communion with Him.
Let every heart say: "O Christ, it is this I long for, it is this I choose." And He will gladly give it to you.
*And then my last thought. The life of the branch is a life of entire surrender. This word, "entire surrender," is a great and solemn word, and I believe we do not understand its meaning. But yet the little branch preaches it. "Have you anything to do, little branch, beside bearing grapes?" "No, nothing." "Are you fit for nothing?" "Fit for nothing!"
The Bible says that a bit of vine cannot even be used as a pen; it is fit for nothing but to be burned. "And now, what do you understand, little branch, about your relation to the vine?" "My relation is just this: I am utterly given up to the vine, and the vine can give me as much or as little sap as it chooses. Here I am at its disposal, and the vine can do with me what it likes!"
Oh, we need this entire surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is one of the most difficult points to make clear, and one of the most important and needful points to explain-- what this entire surrender is. It is an easy thing for a man or a number of men to offer themselves up to G.o.d for entire consecration, and to say, "Lord, it is my desire to give up myself entirely to Thee." That is of great value and often brings very rich blessing. But the one question I ought to study quietly is: "What is meant by entire surrender?" It means that just as literally as Christ was given up entirely to G.o.d, I am given up entirely to Christ. Is that too strong? Some of you think so. Some think that never can be; that just as entirely and absolutely as Christ gave up His life to do nothing but seek the Father's pleasure, and depend on the Father absolutely and entirely, I am to do nothing but to seek the pleasure of Christ. But that is actually true. Christ Jesus came to breathe His own Spirit into us, to make us find our very highest happiness in living entirely for G.o.d, just as He did. O beloved brethren, if that is the case, then I ought to say: "Yes, as true as it is of that little branch of the vine, so true, by G.o.d's grace, I would have it be of me. I would live day by day that Christ may be able to do with me what He will."
Ah! here comes the terrible mistake that lies at the bottom of so much of our own religion. A man thinks: "I have my business and family duties, and my relations as a citizen, and all this I cannot change. And now alongside of all this I am to take in religion and the service of G.o.d as something that will keep me from sin.
G.o.d help me to perform my duties properly!" That is not right. When Christ came, He came and bought the sinner with His blood. If there was a slave market here and I were to buy a slave, I should take that slave away to my own house from his old surroundings, and he would live at my house as my personal property, and I could order him about all the day. And if he were a faithful slave he would live as having no will and no interests of his own, his one care being to promote the well-being and honor of his master. And in like manner I, who have been bought with the blood of Christ, have been bought to live every day with the one thought, How can I please my Master?
Oh, we find the Christian life so difficult because we seek for G.o.d's blessing while we live in our own will. We would be glad to live the Christian life according to our own liking. We make our own plans and choose our own work, and then we ask the Lord Jesus to come in and take care that sin shall not conquer us too much, and that we shall not go too far wrong; we ask Him to come in and give us so much of His blessing. But our relation to Jesus ought to be such that we are entirely at His disposal, and every day come to Him humbly and straightforwardly, and say: "Lord, is there anything in me that is not according to Thy will, that has not been ordered by Thee, or that is not entirely given up to Thee?" Oh, if we would wait and wait patiently, there would spring up a relationship between us and Christ so close and so tender that we should afterwards be amazed how far distant our intercourse with Him had previously been.
I know there are a great many difficulties about this question of holiness; I know that all do not think exactly the same with regard to it. But that would know that all do not think exactly the same with regard to it. But that would be to me a matter of comparative indifference if I could see that all are be to me a matter of comparative indifference if I could see that all are honestly longing to be free from every sin. But I am afraid that honestly longing to be free from every sin. But I am afraid that unconsciously there are in hearts often compromises with the idea: "We unconsciously there are in hearts often compromises with the idea: "We cannot be without sin; we must sin a little every day; we cannot help it." Oh, cannot be without sin; we must sin a little every day; we cannot help it." Oh, that people would actually cry to G.o.d: "Lord, do keep me from sin!" Give that people would actually cry to G.o.d: "Lord, do keep me from sin!" Give yourself utterly to Jesus, and ask Him to do His very utmost for you in yourself utterly to Jesus, and ask Him to do His very utmost for you in keeping you from sin. keeping you from sin.
In conclusion, let me gather up all in one word. Christ Jesus said: "I am the Vine, ye are the branches." In other words: I, the living One who have so completely given Myself to you, am the Vine. You cannot trust Me too much. I am the Almighty Worker, full of a divine life and power. Christians, you are the branches of the Lord Jesus Christ. If there is in your heart the consciousness: I am not a strong, healthy, fruit-bearing branch, I am not closely linked with Jesus, I am not living in Him as I should be-- then listen to Him saying: "'I am the Vine,' I will receive you, I will draw you to Myself, I will bless you, I will strengthen you, I will fill you with My Spirit. I, the Vine, have taken you to be My branches; I have given Myself utterly to you; children, give yourselves utterly to Me. I have surrendered Myself as G.o.d absolutely to you; I became Man and died for you that I might be entirely yours. Come and surrender yourselves entirely to be Mine."
What shall our answer be? Oh, let it be a prayer from the depths of our heart, that the living Christ may take each one of us and link us close to Himself. Let our prayer be that He, the living Vine, shall so link each of us to Himself that we shall go on our way with our hearts singing: "He is my Vine, and I am His branch; I want nothing more-- now I have the everlasting Vine." Then when you get alone with Him, worship and adore Him, praise and trust Him, love Him and wait for His love.
"Thou art my Vine, and I am Thy branch. It is enough, my soul is satisfied. Glory to His blessed name!"