With Christ (fulness of joy)
by Inglis Fleming
“Company is better than property.”
This old saying of a well-known servant of God embodies important truth for all believers, truth which shines out in the greatest clearness in the Word of God. And many are the forms in which it is presented with regard to the Christian. Let us consider, briefly, some of them.
In order to secure our company with Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ gave His life. So we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:10, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep (whether we are still alive or have already fallen asleep when He comes) we should live together with Him.”
He died for our sins. He died to deliver us from the fear of death. He died to close our sinful history as part of a fallen race. All this is true, blessedly true, but more than all these He had in view this, that we should co-live, live-in-partnership-with Himself.”
He would gain our presence as His companions in suitability to Himself. It was this He valued and for which He delivered Himself up.
And is not this seen in the days of His earthly way? “He ordained twelve that they should be with Him and that He might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14). They were to be with Him—this was first. Then they were to be for Him in service.
Mark this well, ye Christian workers. Our Communion with Him is more than our Commission for Him, and may we not add that it is in proportion as we company with Him that our service for Him will be effectual for His praise? In His presence it is that we learn His thoughts, we catch His spirit, we are formed after His mind. If we were more in the secret with Him, we should become more like Him in the way we serve. And our labours would not be less, for His grace towards men would prompt us to go forth diligently to seek the needy and the lost in communion with His own mind.
“Go forth and serve Him while ’tis day,
Nor leave our sweet retreat.”
Later in His life of ministry we read (John 6:3), “Jesus went up into a mountain and there He sat with His disciples.” That which transpired before the coming of the multitude we know not. What He said to them or they to Him is not told. But this is recorded, “He sat with His disciples.” Did He not find delight in their being “at home” with Him, as they did in being allowed to consort with Himself?
And this was in happiest accord with what had been declared of old, “My delights were with the sons of men” (Prov. 8:31). He rejoiced in the habitable parts of His earth. “Immanuel . . . God with us.”
He loved them, and love ever finds its deepest joy in the nearness of the loved ones. Wonderful indeed that the Son of God should thus be found joying with such as ourselves in the reciprocation of affection.
Again this is seen on the last night before the cross, with all its shame and suffering. “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15), are the words which tell His heart’s deep love. And that was the occasion when He, in His desire to be remembered by His own, instituted the Lord’s supper to be observed “till He come.” Love loves love. And did He not give us this love-keepsake because He delights in having even two or three gathered together where He can be with them in their midst, and from their midst sing praise to the Father whose Name He has made known to them?
It was on this same occasion that He said to His disciples, “Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations” (Luke 22:28). He does not refer to their apostleship or preaching on His behalf. He emphasizes the fact that they had remained with Him in His time of rejection. This had been a comfort to Him. Others had gone away. These had been constant. In His tender grace He passes over all their fickleness and all their lack of intelligence, and only recalls to them that they have stayed with Him amid the trials and difficulties of His way.
And it is His presence which will make our heaven. Many and varied have been the imaginings of men as to what will constitute the happiness of those in the courts of bliss. Scripture tells us very little of what those joys will be. It shows that death and woe and pain and night and sorrow will all be over, but of the more positive side it declares but little.
But is not this with a purpose? The eyes of the believer are not turned to look at things; our hopes are centred in Christ. He is to fill the vision, and His being there is to be the secret of eternal happiness in the Father’s house. “That where I am ye may be also.”
Thus we read of the Lord’s word of consolation to the penitent thief beside Him at Calvary, “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
And again, in the parable which presents His coming again, “They that were ready went in with Him to the marriage” (Matt. 25:10).
For the Christian who now departs, it is to be “With Christ” which is “far better” than the deep joys of active service for Him among His own or in the Gospel here. “Absent from the body,” the believer is present—at home—with the Lord. The spirit there while waiting for a body of glory like Christ’s.
This finishing touch will be made at our Lord’s return. Then, whether raised or changed, His own will be caught up together and so be for ever with the Lord. The ultimate of blessing is reached thus.
And may we not say that it is this for which He looks? As we have seen, He told the loved ones that if He left them it was but to prepare a place for them, and promised that He would come again in order to receive them to Himself, that where He was they might be also. Consistently with this it is that He prays, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with ME where I am” (John 17:24). Is not the height of His joy that His own—the gift of His Father’s love—will be in His company eternally, as theirs will be to be with Him?
“He and I, in that bright glory,
One deep joy shall share
Mine to be for ever with Him,
His that I am there.”
So also in His kingdom in glory. He will display His approval of His own who have been overcomers in the world by associating them with Himself. “They shall walk with Me in white” (Rev. 3:4).
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne” (Rev. 3:21).
Blessed indeed is our joyful prospect. We are to be in His company for ever and to know the deep delight of being in perfect accordance with His own mind for us and objects of His pleasure eternally.
In the joy of this thought, an aged Christian shepherd, when giving praise to the Lord, said, “Lord Thou hast not only fitted us for Thy presence, but Thou hast fitted us for Thine own love to rest on with delight for ever.”
We might have been blessed with forgiveness of sins and with everlasting salvation and yet have been left at some distance from Himself. This would not have satisfied, however, His love. He has brought us into such nearness that it could not be exceeded. And so He is our joy and, wonder of wonders, we are His joy as we wait for the glad hour of which we sing
“For ever with the Lord,
For ever like Him then
We’ll see His face in that blest place,
Our Father’s house in heaven.”