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9. If we desired to be preserved blameless we must preserve ceaseless communion with G.o.d, and abide in the spirit of prayer and fellowship through the Holy Spirit, for thus alone will we be led out into all the steppings of His will and kept blameless and fully obedient. The interruption of our communion for an hour might lose a step, and that lost step might lead us from the pathway of His perfect will and the fellowship of His presence for days to come, or, at least, leave us a step behind, and therefore not blameless.
10. Further, if we desire to be kept, we must maintain a quiet spirit, free from the turmoil and agitation of anxious care and inward strife, and still enough to always hear His voice. "The peace of G.o.d will garrison your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ." This is the soul's defense if we desired to be preserved blameless; therefore let the peace of G.o.d rule in your hearts, and regard with apprehension and alarm even a moment's interruption of your quietness and inward rest.
11. If we desire to be kept we must jealously guard our hearts and thoughts, and not feel ourselves at liberty to drift into the current of all the imaginations that are ever ready to sweep through the brain, and the idle words in which even Christian people are always ready to involve us. If you are walking closely with G.o.d, and watching for His voice you will be quickly conscious of a constraint, a weight upon your mind, a repression upon your heart, a deep tender sense of G.o.d's anxiety for His child --the mother calling her little birdlings to her soft wing from the place of peril. Truly "He that keeps his mouth, keeps his soul." These outward gates are places of danger, and the path of safety is a hidden one.
12. If we desire to be preserved blameless we must not live by long intervals, but by the breath and by the moment. Each instant must be dedicated and presented to G.o.d, a ceaseless sacrifice, and each breath must be poured into His bosom and received back from His being.
13. If we desire to be preserved blameless we must learn to recover instantly from failure by frank confession and prompt faith and re-committal. It is possible to catch ourselves before we have really fallen, and G.o.d does not count it a fall if we do not yield to it. Unseen hands are ever near to bear us up. even when we dash our foot against a stone; the remedy is found even before the danger has become effectual. There is provision for every failure in the blessed promise, "If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." There is something higher and better than this, namely, the grace that is able to keep us from stumbling, and check us even before the fall is accomplished. So He is willing to keep us even as the apple of the eye, reminded of the danger before it has become fatal, and instinctively closing the eyelids against its intrusion.
14. Finally, let us remember that the whole spirit, soul and body must be trained to abide in Christ. The life He gives us is not a self-contained endowment but a link of dependence, and every part of our being must continually draw its replenishment and nurture from our living Head, and thus be preserved blameless unto the Coming of our Lord JESUS CHRIST
EVEN AS HE.
"As he is, so are we also in this world." 1 John 4: 17.
The apostle of love gives us a picture of perfect love, and its source in perfect faith and union with the Lord Jesus Christ. For this is the force of the pa.s.sage: "Herein is our love made perfect, because as he is, so are we in this world." It is the full realization of our oneness with Jesus that gives us perfect love.
We are sitting at the feet of the greatest teacher of love. We are learning of him who himself leaned on the Master's breast, and learned all he knew of love from the living touch of His heart.
I. PERFECT LOVE.
It is evident that the love he refers to is our love to G.o.d. The phrase, "Perfect love casts out fear," explains what he means by perfect love. It is a love that has no doubt or dread in it, but leans confidingly on the bosom of the Lord, trusts in the darkest hours with unfaltering confidence, and even in the day of judgment will stand with boldness amid the tumult and the wreck of a dissolving world, and claim its place in the friendship of the Judge who sits upon the throne.
During the French War of 1870, a train was carrying military despatches from Metz to the headquarters of the French army. The Germans had just captured Metz, and were marching rapidly to cut off the French army. It was necessary that the despatches should reach the post within an hour. The distance was sixty or seventy miles. The road was rough; the train consisted of a single coach and locomotive; the speed was like a whirlwind, and the pa.s.sengers, consisting of the wife and child of the engineer, the bearer of the despatches, and a newspaper correspondent, were hurled hither and thither in the dashing, rushing train, like sailors in a frightful storm.
To say that they were alarmed would be little --they were in imminent and deadly peril. Every moment threatened to pitch the furious train over some embankment or bridge. Rolling from side to side, leaping at times in the air, rushing, roaring on past stations, where everything made way for this whirlwind of desperate speed and energy, the few people inside held their breath in dismay, and often cried out with terror as they dashed along.
But there was one person on that car that knew nothing of their fears. It was the little child of the engineer. Happy as a bird amid all the excitement around her, she laughed aloud in childish glee and merriment as often as the train would give some wild lurch and hurl her over a seat; and, when they looked at her in wonder, and her mother asked her if she was not afraid, she looked up and answered: "Why, my father is at the engine!"
A little later the engineer came through the car to cheer up his trembling wife, and, as he entered with the great drops of sweat rolling down his soot-stained face, the little child leaped into his arms and laid her head upon his bosom, as happy and peaceful as if she was lying on her little cot at home. What a picture of the perfect love that casts out fear! What a lesson for the children of the Heavenly Father!
Look at your little, lisping babe putting its hand in yours and letting you lead it where you will, and learn to trust and love the Father that cannot err, forget nor fail.
This is the remedy for every fear --the fear of man, the fear of yourself, the fear of Satan, the fear of death, the fear of falling, the fear of the future. Only love Him and rest in His love, and you will dwell safely and be quiet from the fear of evil.
And, oh, what a life ours would be if we were fully saved from our fears! How many of our worst troubles are those that never come! G.o.d give us the perfect love that casts out fear!
II. THE SECRET OF THIS LOVE.
"Because as he is, so are we also in this world!" This love is the fruit of faith. It is the blossom which grows on the fair tree of trust. Its roots are in the very heart of Jesus. Its life is nourished by His very life and love. It is as we realize what He is to us, and what we are to Him, that we enter into the fulness of His love.
There is no stronger statement anywhere in G.o.d's Word of our intimate and absolute union with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It does not mean that some day we will be like Him, but here, and now, as He is, so are we in this world.
1. We are one with Him in His death. His death was our death, "For we thus judge that, if one died for all, then were all dead." He hung upon the cross in our name, and His dying has as effectually settled all the claims of G.o.d's law against us as if we had been executed for our own crimes and had already pa.s.sed through all the pains and penalties of h.e.l.l. How can we help loving such a Friend? What will we fear when He Himself has taken our very sins? It is only as we realize this fully that we will live in the perfect love that casts out all fear.
2. As He is in His resurrection, so are we in this world. For we are not only dead with Him, but we also live with Him. The life we now live is not the same as our past. The saved man is no longer himself. He is dead, and the man who lives in his stead is a new man in Christ Jesus. He can truly say: "I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me." It is not the same man. Your old sins are regarded as the sins of another. You are even as He. G.o.d recognizes not the old man, but the Christ in you, and receives you as He does His own beloved Son. Why then should you be afraid? Only realize your unity with Him, and His perfect love will cast out all fear.
3. As He is in His acceptance by the Father, so are we also in this world. For "He has made us accepted in the Beloved," or, literally, in the Son of His love. That is to say, we are accepted even as the Son of His love is. We are as dear as the Son of His love is. The word "accepted" means received with complacency and delight --G.o.d is pleased with us for Jesus' sake, even as He is with Christ Himself.
We have heard of a Scottish shepherd, one of whose flock had lost her lamb, while another lamb was motherless. Vainly he tried to make the lambless mother accept the motherless lamb. She would have nothing to do with it, but pushed it rudely from her with cruel and heartbroken anger, because it only reminded her of the one she had lost. At length a sudden device occurred to him. He took the skin of the dead lamb and with it he covered the living one, and then he brought it to the offended mother. Instantly her whole manner changed to the tenderest affection. She welcomed the little one with a mother's tenderness, caressed it, washed it, fed it from her bosom, and treated it henceforth as if it were the very lamb she had lost. So He has made us accepted in the Beloved, and so He receives us even as His own dear Son.
4. In His ascension glory we are one with Him. For His ascension was not for Himself. He has sat down at the right hand of G.o.d, far above all princ.i.p.ality and power, and every name that is named, not for Himself, but for us. He is there as our Head, and we are here as His body. He has taken His seat there in our name, and written our name on the place prepared for us.
Just as you have sometimes gone into some great a.s.sembly and held not only your own seat, but also the seats which you have reserved for your friends till they should come, so Jesus is sitting for us on high and holding our places until we go. "He is head over all things for his body, the church, which is the fullness of him that filleth all in all." G.o.d always thinks of us as if we were there; so let us think of ourselves and live as in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
5. In His redemption rights. Christ has purchased for us certain rights. To us they are the free gifts of G.o.d's mercy, utterly undeserved by us; and yet to Him they are simply the fulfillment of a covenant whose condition He has met, and whose promises He is ent.i.tled to claim to the full.
These rights we share with Him, and, while in one sense, we ourselves have no rights as sinners, but punishment and banishment; yet in union with Him we are ent.i.tled to all that He has purchased by His righteousness and blood, and may come to G.o.d and claim from His justice and faithfulness all the worth of our Savior's atonement.
Suppose that one of my friends were to go to a leading business house and order for me a large and valuable bill of goods, and then should send me word that the goods were paid for and that I was requested to go and select to the full amount of the deposit. There would be no modesty in my hesitating to take the very best quality of goods. There would be no kindness to my friend in acting before the clerks of that store as if I were a pauper and receiving a gratuity. My most becoming course would be to act with manly independence and claim the full measure of my friend's purchase. From him it may be a gift, but from the business house it is a purchase, and fully paid for, and involving on my part every right of simple justice. Exactly so, Christ has purchased for us a complete salvation, and paid for it to the full; and now, in His name, we may come and buy "wine and milk," the choicest blessings, without money and without price. We buy without money, because He has paid the price; and yet we buy in the sense of making it absolutely our own.
When we fully realize that we do thus fully stand with Christ in all His rights, we enter into the perfect love that casts out fear. No longer do we hold back, like the prodigal in the servant's place. Prodigals, indeed, we are, but we have become, in our Elder Brother, more than sons. Let us draw near, therefore, in full a.s.surance and with fearless confidence, and dwell in the Father's house in perfect love.
6. In His Sonship. "I ascend unto my Father and your Father, my G.o.d and your G.o.d." Our heavenly sonship is not natural. We are not children of G.o.d by virtue of creation, as angels are and Adam was, but through the new birth, in first place, which makes us partakers of the divine nature, and, still more, through our personal union with the Lord Jesus Christ, who so comes into us and dwells in us that we partake of His own relation to the Father, and are the children of G.o.d, even as He is. This is especially true after we enter into the deeper life of abiding in Christ, and receive the full baptism of the Holy Ghost.
There are two terms used for children in the New Testament. One, "teknon,"
meaning a child; the other, "huios," meaning a son in the most exclusive sense in which the term can be used. Jesus is never called "teknon," but always "huios" --never a child of G.o.d, but always the Son of G.o.d; that is, the only begotten and well-beloved Son.
Now, we are called "tekna," that is, the children of G.o.d, in the Scriptures; but, after a certain point in our experience, the careful student of the original Scriptures will not fail to notice that the higher word for sonship --the word that exclusively belongs to Jesus --is also given to those who have received Jesus to abide in them. United to Him, they have come into His own very place with the Father, and are the sons of G.o.d in the very same sense that He is. Wonderful, glorious place! --that as He is, so are we also!
Even as the wife is received in the husband's home, exactly so we are wedded to Him and inherit His high prerogative.
7. In His Father's Love. There is one thing which the human heart is unwilling to give away to any other and that is the exclusive love which belongs to us alone, from those that are dear to us. We cannot give it away to any unless they are so close to us that they are even as we ourselves. This is the most wonderful thing about the love of Christ. He has given away to His disciples His Father's peculiar love to Him. "That the love wherewith You have loved me, may be in them and I in them."
How can He give to us that sacred love which was His own supreme delight?
Only because we are one with Him, so that in giving it to us He is only giving it to Himself in another form. It is like the mother willing to share the love of her husband with her child who is part of her own self.
It is the strongest proof of our ident.i.ty with Christ. For in no other way could He share with us that which belongs to Himself alone. In the same way we, as His disciples, can be willing that His peculiar love to us should be shared with our brethren, because they are one with us. Well may it give boldness to our love to know that we are as dear to the Father as His beloved Son, so that Christ must perish before we can be plucked out of His hand.
8. In His righteousness and holiness. "For both he that sanctifies and they that are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." Our sanctification is the very same as His. Therefore, He said in His parting prayer, "For their sakes I sanctify myself that they may be truly sanctified."
Christ gives us His own holiness, being made unto us of G.o.d sanctification and redemption, and as He is so are we also. This should give boldness to our love. He does not expect of us any qualities that He is not willing Himself to impart. He does not chide us for our failures and imperfections, but because we do not receive more of Him.
Let us, therefore, nestle closer to His breast and throw ourselves more fully upon His all-sufficient grace.
9. In His mind. For "we have the mind of Christ." Humanity is threefold; spirit, soul and body. Christ gives us His soul and life as well as His spirit.
He thinks His thoughts in us and not only reveals to us divine truths, but gives us a divine capacity to understand them. It is not a similar mind but the same mind that was in Jesus that we are exhorted to possess. How it quickens the languid thought, clarifies the obscure conception, enlarges the vision of the soul, kindles the imagination and inspires every lofty and heavenly impulse to enthusiasm, until the soul takes wings and mounts up into the heights that are to others inaccessible and which are full of glory!
There is no direction in which the life of Christ may be more practical and helpful in our work for Him, than in this connection. Happy they who have learned to say with the great apostle, "Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of G.o.d, who also has made us able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter which kills, but of the Spirit which gives life."
10. In His plans and thoughts. The Master has said as the tenderest expression of His love: "I have not called you servants, but I have called you friends." We are not working as slaves at a task, but as partners in a blessed fellowship in which we share all the plans and thoughts of our Lord respecting His work. We are not required to go in blind obedience and do simply what we are told, but we are entrusted with His resources and guided by His wisdom, in cooperation with Him, working with us, to carry out intelligently His great plans for the redemption of this world. Therefore, He has unfolded to us the mystery of His kingdom and the great purpose of His providence respecting Israel, the Church and His second coming.
We are trusted and confidential friends and fellow-workers, and counted true yoke-fellows with Him in all His cherished thoughts and purposes. Let this inspire us to more loyal service, and fill us with a love that casts out all fear, to know that in all that is dearest to His heart we share His fullest confidence, and as He is so we are in this world.
11. In the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He has given us the very same spirit that dwelt in Him. On the banks of the Jordan He first received the Holy Spirit, and as He was leaving the world He breathed upon them and communicated to them with the sweetness of His own life and love the same Spirit in which He had wrought all His miracles and spoken all His words. And so Peter says in connection with the gift of Pentecost that Christ "having received the promise of the Spirit has shed forth this which ye now see and hear."
Therefore, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ and sometimes even Christ, because He brings to us the presence of Jesus and enables us to realize our oneness with Him.
This is the secret of the love that casts out fear; to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus until we are lost in the consciousness of our union with our beloved Lord. "He gives not the Spirit by measure unto him." Therefore, if we have Him we have the Spirit that dwelt in Him without measure. Have we? Then, indeed, we are "filled with all the fullness of G.o.d and have received exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think according to the power that works in us."
12. In His physical life. For we are "members of his body, his flesh and his bones" and "the life of Christ is manifested in our mortal flesh."
This is the secret of divine healing, to be so united with Christ in our body that we will share in these vessels of clay the life and strength of our risen Head.
Even in our physical frame we may be in this world as He is also. This was the secret of Paul's endurance. He could be buffeted by every blast, exposed to every hardship, yet not crushed by any pressure. Sorrowful yet always rejoicing, cast down but not destroyed, shouting amid all the extremes of life's vicissitudes. "I can do all things through Christ who is my strength."
O, how this experience deepens our love as we look back and remember how often He has relieved our physical sufferings! How many aches and infirmities He has healed or hindered and how tenderly He has cherished our mortal frame, even as a mother does the babe she loves! O, how our heart swells with the love that casts out fear! How sweet it is to lean our whole weight on His bosom, knowing that as He is so are we also in this world.
13. In His ministry of prayer. There is no place where Christ more fully identifies Himself with us than at the mercy-seat, where He bids us pray in His name, which just means in His very personality, taking the very same place as He Himself and asking all that He is ent.i.tled to claim.
Not only so, but He gives us His own Spirit to pray in us, impresses us with His own desires and wishes, and so enables us to pray that it will be His own very prayer. This is the secret of all true prayer, to pray in the Lord Jesus, asking what He would ask and as He would ask it. To such prayer the promise is absolute. "Whatsoever you will ask the Father in my name I will give it." "If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you will and it will be done unto you." "Seeing, then, that we have a great High Priest, who is pa.s.sed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of G.o.d, let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
14. In our service for Christ. "As my Father hath sent me even so send I you"
is His commission. We are sent into the world as directly as the Lord Jesus Himself was. This was not His home, but He came into it to do a special work for the Father and the world, lived in it as a stranger and left it when His work was done.
True service for G.o.d is not only to do our work as Christ did it, but to do it in the very life and strength of Christ. This is the meaning of the promise, "He that believes on me, the works that I do will he do also." That is, he will work in partnership with me, we doing the same works together. This is the same thought as Paul expresses in Ephesians. "We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which G.o.d has before prepared that we should walk in them." Our very works are prepared for us, and inspired in us by the indwelling Christ.
O, how it fills the heart with love and dispels our fear to know that in all our service for Him, He is with us and in us, and as He is so are we also in this world in all our work for Him.
15. In our sufferings. Not only does He suffer with us in all our trials, but we are called to suffer with Him and to "fill us that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ, for His body the church." How often we keenly feel the condition of others for whom we are called to pray or minister to! It is only the heart of Christ suffering in us for those whom He desires to let us help, by bearing their burdens or holding them up for His blessing. By the sufferings of Christ we do not mean sickness or calamity, but those sufferings which involve the sufferings of others, or sympathy with Him in some place where we can share His burdens. How touching His words to Paul when he was persecuting the saints, "Why do you persecute me?" This was the highest ministry of Jesus --to suffer. This is also the crowning ministry of almost every Christian life.
The last two Beat.i.tudes are wholly about suffering, implying surely not only the climax, but a double climax. The dear Scotch martyr, dying at the stake in the Solway Sands, expressed it finely when looking at the little maiden who was dying near her and struggling with the waves in the last conflict, she said, "What do I see but Christ in one of His members suffering there?" It was not Margaret Wilson but Christ suffering there. And so, beloved, you never suffer alone if you suffer for Him and according to His will.
16. In our faith. Even the power to believe is the working of Christ within us. He is the author and finisher of our faith, and He will enable us to believe even as He. Christ is the great example of faith; He is its inspiration too. How sublime the faith that trusted the Father through the testings of the enemy in the wilderness; that met the power of Satan and sickness through all His earthly ministry with calm reliance upon His Father and victory over all the power of the enemy; that stood at the grave of Lazarus and said, "Father, I know that You hear me always; Lazarus, come forth"; that even upon the cross would say, "Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit," and afterwards could claim and promise to His disciples all the glories of His coming kingdom and the blessings of the gospel dispensation!
It is the same Christ who lives in us and inspires us with the faith of the Son of G.o.d, for our conflicts, testimonies and victories. He who says to us, "Have the faith of G.o.d," will not fail to impart it if we will receive Him and trust Him, and will enable us so to stand in all the hard places of our Christian life, that as He is, so will we be.
17. In our joy. The life of Christ was one of joy. Even in the darkest trials He often rejoiced in spirit. He had the inner and upper fountains of His Father's joy and love, and while He knew the depths of pain as no other spirit ever did, yet as is ever the case the pendulum touched both extremes. He also knew the heights of joy with equal intensity.
If we are filled with Christ we will have His joy in us and He has said it will be full. We will not have the hilarity of the world, and men may be unable to understand our happiness; but our deepest spirit will be filled with gladness and able to rejoice in the Lord when there is nothing else to light up the midnight of trouble.
18. In our love we may be even as He. Indeed in no other way can we meet the law of love and the demands and tests of Christian life except by His indwelling and the shedding abroad of His love in our hearts. But this He is willing to do if we are willing to stand in His love wherever He places us, and we will be able to pa.s.s triumphantly through every testing, perhaps with keen suffering, but without disobedience or sin and ever say, "Thanks be unto G.o.d, who always causes us to triumph in Christ Jesus." "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."
19. In his glory. "The glory that thou have given me, I have given them that they may be one, even as we are one."
When Joseph rose from a prison to a throne his greatest joy was to share his glory with his father and his father's house. Even when we receive a great blessing we long to share it with those we love.
So our precious Lord is not sitting amid the glories of heaven for His own delight as the ages go by. He is busy preparing our mansions and our crowns, and it will be His sublimest joy some day to open to us the vision of all He has been preparing for us during the years that we are suffering for Him below, and sometimes wondering if He had ceased to love us. Oh, how we will fall at His feet in wonder and transport, and almost feel ashamed to take the crown which He will place upon our head!
That will be a happy day for us; but sometimes I think that it will be a happier day for Him, as He finds in our joy the consummation of His.
"It does not yet appear what we will be, but we know that when he appears we will be like him, for we will see him as he is," and as He is, so will we be also in that world.