Titles and Blessings of Believers
A Bible Reading to Christian Girls.
I. Children of God: Their Privileges, Possessions, and Pathway.
BY nature, we are "children of wrath" (Eph. ii. 3), and by practice "children of disobedience" (Eph. ii. 2). In being "born again" (John iii. 7), believers become the children of God (John i. 12, 13; 1 John v. 1). There is no other way of entrance into the family of God. Neither by baptism, nor by church membership, nor by any ordinance or religious attainment do sinners become the sons of God. Only by a new and heavenly birth, which is the work of the Spirit of God in the soul (John iii. 5), wrought through the Word (1 Pet. i. 23). It was when as convicted sinners we received the God-given Saviour (John iii. 16; John 8. 22), when we believed in Him as Jesus Christ, the Son of God (John v. 1), when by faith we rested upon Him as our own personal and only Saviour (Gal. iii. 26), that---
"The Holy Spirit entered,
And we were born of God."
"Children of God" is a title of the highest privilege and the closest intimacy. And it belongs to all who are true believers in Christ. Some who are in this relationship, may not enjoy its blessings, because they have not been taught in the truth. But it is theirs, all the same. The life is there, but they need light and liberty, which come by the truth. The Lord Jesus said—"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John viii. 32).
We will look at some of the Privileges, and Possessions, then at some steps of the Pathway of believers, as children of God.
They are no longer "children of wrath" (Eph. ii. 3), or "children of the devil" (John viii. 44). They have passed out of their natural state, as "born in sin" (Psa. Ii. 5), and "in the flesh" (Rom. viii. 8). They have passed out of death into life (John v. 24), and from the power of Satan unto God (Acts xxvi. 18). "The life of God" (Eph. iv. 18), from which in their unconverted state, they were alienated, is now in them, and they are "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Pet. i. 4). What a wonderful change is this! It is this new life and this new nature that causes the new-born soul to turn to God, and to find in Him its delight, to read the Word, and find in it the new food that causes him to grow. These are of their new Possessions. They find new companions in God's people, and new occupations in His service. As the flower turns to the sun, so the new heaven-born life is occupied with Christ, and turns from the world and its sins and follies once loved. It is not so much breaking off, or giving up, as having got something better, by reason of which, the "old things have passed away," or lose their charm. As the child drops the old and broken toy, when a new and better one is given, so the heart in which Christ has been received and now dwells (Eph. iii. 16), loses its hold on earthly things, and is drawn up to things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God (Eph. iii. 1-3). Another unspeakable Possession of the children of God is the indwelling Spirit. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, 'Abba, Father' " (Gal. iv. 6), giving the conscious enjoyment of this new relationship, and enabling the believer to take the place and enter on the experience of being "of the household of God" (Eph. ii. 19). You remember when the prodigal was on the way back from "the far country," he prepared a prayer, which ended with the request, "Make me as one of thy hired servants." But the father said, "My SON was dead and is alive again" (Luke xv. 24). Not as a servant in the court, but as a son in the home, was he welcomed. Less would have met his need, but not his father's love. And so God has put believing sinners in "the children's place," into the innermost circle of love, nearer than which they cannot be. Loved with a Father's love (1 John iii. 1), as His Beloved Son is loved (John xvii. 26), so are they---
"So dear, so very dear to God,
More dear I cannot be,
The love wherever He loves the Son,
Such is His love to me."
There are various stages of spiritual growth among God's children. The newborn babe (1 Pet. ii. 2), by feeding on the pure milk of the Word, grows, and this is what will be manifest in all who are spiritually healthy. There are little children, young men and fathers, spoken of in 1 John ii. 13. Young men are strong, and have "the Word of God abiding in them" (1 John ii. 16). You cannot grow spiritually, if you neglect the daily reading of God's Word and prayer. You will become backsliders, and soon go down to the world's level, if you cease to feed the new life. Do not read novels or light literature; they are as poison to the new life. Do not keep company with the ungodly, or you will soon lose your joy, and go back to the world. How many who were once bright and happy, have left their first love, lost their joy, and become crippled in spiritual life, by mixing up with ungodly company, and reading unhealthy books. Feed on God's Word, keep company with His people, and "love not the world." These Privileges bring their corresponding responsibilities.
God expects all His children to be "obedient children" (1 Pet. i. 14), hearing His Word, and doing what He says. There is blessing in keeping His commandments, not in order to be saved, but because we are. Earthly parents educate and train their children, and so does God (Heb. xii. 5-10). He delights to see His own doing His will, and walking in His ways, in communion with Himself. This they can only do, while obedient. Disobedience brings the rod. In the world, they are to "shine as lights," and live as "sons of God without rebuke" (Phil. iii. 15), manifesting by their life and ways that they are truly "children of their Father who is in heaven" (Matt. v. 45), "imitators of God" (Eph. v. 1), shewing forth His virtues. When the Lord comes, the sons of God will be manifested (Rom. viii. 19-21), in all their beauty, bearing the full image of Christ, before a wondering world, which for the present "knoweth them not, because it knew Him not" (1 John iii. 21).
The Path of God's children, is clearly marked out in the Word. And by this, they are to go. The Word of God is to be as a lamp to their feet, and a light to their path (Psa. cxix. 105). Whatever it warns them against, they are to "abstain" from (1 Thess. v. 22). Wherever it tells them to be, there, they are to go. Such is the truly happy path (Psa. i. 1). And there God will be their Guide (Psa. xxxii. 8) all the way, and all the days (Psa. lxxiii. 24). Thus God will bring His "many sons" safely to "glory;" by the guiding hand of Christ "the Captain of their salvation" (Heb. ii. 10) whom God has charged to bring all His sons safe to glory.
II. Disciples of Christ: Their Character, Course, and Crown.
WHEN the Risen Lord sent out His messengers bearing the Gospel to every creature, He said, "Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt, xxiii. 19, 20, R.V.). And this name of "disciples" is given, not only to those who were called by and companied with the Lord, in the days of His earthly ministry, but to those who were converted through the preaching of the Gospel by the apostles and others, after His Ascension (see Acts vi. 1; ix. 1; xi. 26; xx. 7). A "disciple" is a learner, and a follower, and thus, those who are saved are taught by the Lord—"Learn of Me" (Matt. xi. 29), "Follow Me" (John i. 43). This aspect of Christian life is much dwelt upon in the Word, yet apt to be neglected among some who confess Christ as their Saviour. The Gospel not only brings forgiveness of sins (Luke xxiv. 4; Acts xiii. 39) and salvation (Mark xvi. 16; Eph. i. 12), to the sinner, but it brings all who receive it to Christ Himself, as their Lord. They "confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus" (Rom. x. 9), and receive Him as "Christ Jesus the Lord " (Col. ii. 2), as surely as Jesus the Saviour. Before conversion, they were under the dominion of sin, and the power of Satan (Rom. vi. 21; Acts xxvi. 18). But at conversion, the believer is set free from sin's mastery and lordship, and delivered from the authority of darkness, to be translated into the kingdom of the Son of God's love (Col. i. 13), henceforth to own Christ Jesus as his Lord, and to be His true disciple. Thus, being no more his own, but owning the claims of his Redeemer and Lord (1 Cor. vi. 19), the desire of his heart is to learn, in order that he may do the will of the Lord.
When the man of Gadara had the demons cast out of him, he is next seen "sitting at Jesus' feet" (Luke viii. 35), in the place of a disciple. When Saul of Tarsus was met and apprehended by the Lord on the way to Damascus, he said, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" (Acts ix. 6), thus confessing Himself a subject and a disciple of the Lord Jesus. Mary of Bethany "sat at Jesus' feet and heard His Word" (Luke x. 36); she was a true disciple. A disciple is a follower of the Lord. He obeys what he hears; he does what his Lord commands him. This is the true mark of discipleship. Many say, "Lord, Lord," with the lip, but "do not the things which He saith" (Luke vi. 46). Such are only professors, whose works deny that they are true disciples of the Lord Jesus (Titus i. 16).
Discipleship is not always easy; it involves self-denial. The Lord says, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Luke xvi. 24). To follow the Lord along the path of rejection, is never agreeable to the flesh. It means reproach and scorn from the world, but it is the path of blessing here, and of honour hereafter. "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be" (John xii. 26).
When the Lord found "great multitudes" following Him on one occasion, He turned and spake to them words which soon reduced their numbers. These words told the conditions under which any could be His disciples (Luke xiv. 26). To give Christ's claims the first place, to bear the cross, to forsake all that he hath (Luke xiv. 33), if called to do so, is the true path of the Lord's disciple. Such a path will never be popular. Mere religious professors, will never enter on, or choose it. Those who took offence at some of the Lord's hard sayings (John vi. 60, 66), went back and walked no more in the disciple's path. In this way, the Lord often sifts the chaff from the wheat, and manifests those who are truly His own. Some, like Joseph of Arimathea, are disciples, "but secretly, for fear" (John xix. 38) of persecution. They are losers, so long as they remain in this condition, hiding their light. It is a pleasure to learn that he, and also Nicodemus—who first heard the wondrous words of John iii. 16—which have been the means of bringing salvation to so many—both came out boldly on the Lord's side, at a time when others who had known Him longer and better—"forsook Him and fled." Where the life of God, and the love of Christ are in the heart, there will be, in spite of all hindrances, a taking sides with Christ. And this often comes out only, in the day of severe trial and testing.
Love, is the motive power and the mark of the true disciple. "If any man love Me, he will keep My words" (John xiv. 23), "and by this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John xiii. 35). Let us then be much at His feet, hearing His Word, learning of Him; then following hard after Him, cleaving to Him and to His Word, denying self and whatever would hinder us from giving Christ His true place in our lives, as Master and Lord. When the course of the disciple has been continued in, and "finished" (Acts xx. 24; 2 Tim. iv. 8) joyfully, the living Lord, whose eye has been on His faithful follower all along that course, will bestow the "Victor's Crown" (1 Cor. ix. 25) on all who have obtained it—a blessed compensation surely, for all they have lost and suffered, from faithfulness to Him, throughout their earthly course.
III. Temples of the Holy Spirit.
IN 1 Cor. vi. 19, we read, "Know ye not, that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God?" These words are true of all who are born of God. Not only are they sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph. i. 13), marking them out as God's possession in the world, and indwelt by the Spirit as the abiding strength of their inner life (Eph. iii. 16), but their mortal bodies, still subject to death, are claimed by God, and set apart for His use, by His Spirit dwelling in them as a temple. Just as in ancient days, the glory dwelt in the temple at Jerusalem, and the whole place, even to the outer court, was sanctified by God's presence, so the believer now is set apart to God, and his body and its members, are to be used for Him, and in His service. This is a very practical subject, and when rightly understood, and allowed to exercise its sanctifying effects in our daily lives, "so working effectually in all who believe" (1 Thess. ii. 13), it produces godly living.
In unconverted days, our bodies and their members, were the instruments, or tools made use of by sin (Rom. vi. 13). But at conversion, this dominion ceased, and our bodies—although not yet renewed, as our souls and spirits are—then became the Lord's property. They changed masters, and in token of their new ownership, the Holy Spirit came and took up His dwelling in them as a temple, setting them apart to God, and for His service.
There is a beautiful Old Testament type of this, in the cleansing of the leper, which will help us to see the force of this truth. In the day of his cleansing (Lev. xiv. 14-17), after he had been pronounced clean, and had cleansed himself in water, he was brought to the door of the tabernacle, and the priest put the blood of the sacrifice upon his ear, his thumb, and the great toe of his foot. Then the priest dipped his finger in oil, and put a little of it upon the blood marks on the same members. "Blood" tells of sanctification, or setting apart to God by the death of Christ. "Oil" is a fit emblem of the Holy Spirit, and tells of sanctification by the Spirit. That ear was to hear God's voice; that hand was to do His work, that foot to walk in His ways. The blood shows God's claim upon us. "Ye are not your own." The oil reminds us that it is the power of the Spirit that enables us to yield ourselves and our members to the service of God. It was to those who had been justified by blood (Rom. v. 9), and indwelt by the Spirit of God (Rom. viii. 9), that the apostle wrote, "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. xii. 1). Our bodies are the Lord's, and are to be regarded as His, to be yielded as instruments for His service. To walk in the power of this great truth, and allow its power to fashion our lives, would preserve us from many snares. People sometimes say, "There is no harm in this, or in going there." They argue that they may hear speeches, go in with questionable company, sing songs, play games, engage in dances, doing no wrong. But the proper way to look at all such matters, is to ask oneself, "Can I use this ear, on which the sanctifying blood and the anointing have been put by God, to listen to unholy jest or worldly song? Can I use these lips to speak or sing words, that grieve the Holy Indweller in the temple of my body? Can I use this sanctified foot, on which the marks of redemption and sanctification are, to go to the dance, or walk in "the way of sinners?" The dress we wear, the books we read, the things we engage in, the company we keep, the way our time is used, will all be greatly affected by the remembrance of this great truth—"Ye are not your own." "Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost."
So intensely practical and powerful in its effects are these truths on the daily lives of the people of God, that it is the enemy's chief business to render them void in daily practice, by pointing to those who, while claiming to be true Christians, ignore their practice among their fellows, by saying that in all such matters, each may choose his own path, and conform to that which appeals most to his individual taste. But the Lord has not left such things to our choice, or to be guided by what is common, or popular in practice, among those who profess the Saviour's Name. The "counsel" of the Lord is to be His peoples' guide, in all that concerns their walk and conduct here among men. And the principal that ought to govern their lives and fashion their ways, should surely by that Word which He has given to be that the believer's "counsellor" in all that pertain to his life and pathway here.
IV. Strangers and Pilgrims, or, the Believer's Relations to the World.
BY the Cross of Christ, the believer is separated from the world (Gal. i. 4), crucified to it (Gal. vi. 20), and is to reckon himself as one having died to it (Col. ii. 20). Of all His people, the Lord Jesus says in His prayer to the Father, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John xvii. 16). The world is not their home. They are in it but not of it. Their "citizenship" is in heaven (Phil. iii. 21), and heaven is their home. Earth is the place of their pilgrimage. Peter writes to those who are "redeemed" by the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. i. 19), "born again" of the Spirit through the Word (ver. 23), and have now become "the people of God" (chap, ii. 10). "Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul" (ver. 11). "Strangers," are a people not at home, like Turks, Chinese, or Indians in London. "Pilgrims," are a people going home, like a group of Jews returning to Palestine. "Stranger" is a word which marks the Christian's relation to the world in which he at present is, from which he has been separated by the Cross, and out of which he will finally go, at the coming of the Lord from heaven. He is a "stranger" here. The world knoweth him not, because it knew not His Lord (1 John iii. 2). It is on this account, that the children of God are not to mix themselves in and with worldly affairs, or take part in worldly pleasures and frivolities. They are "strangers" here. You will very likely be often asked during the course of your Christian life, to take part in worldly schemes, and to join in what the people of the world consider "good works," apart from Christ and His Word. The Lord when He was here, took the place of the Stranger, and would not enter into the world's politics or discuss such questions as were brought to Him to solve (see Matt. xxii. 17; Luke xii. 13). He would not discuss, or be drawn into such controversies. He stood on the earth as God's witness to the truth (John xviii. 36, 37), and as such, He remained wholly a "Stranger" here.
"Pilgrim" is a word which connects the Christian with the land to which he is going. He sees it afar off, and like those of old, confesses himself a "pilgrim" here, seeking a country beyond (Heb. xi. 19, 24). So he sings as he goes along—
"I'm but a stranger here,
Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert here,
Heaven is my home;
Danger and sorrow stand,
Round me on every hand,
Heaven is my Fatherland,
Heaven is my home."
When the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, and entered on their wilderness journey, they were "pilgrims" on the way to Canaan. There is a fine picture of pilgrim life given us in Numbers xxi. 22, where the pilgrim people said to the King of the Amorites, "Let me pass through thy land. We will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of thy well; but we will go along by the king's highway.'' This is the true pilgrim spirit. To turn aside into the world's paths, to pitch the pilgrim tent like Lot, toward Sodom, generally ends by sitting in its gate, ceasing to be a pilgrim, and going back like Demas, of whom it is said, "having loved the present world" (2 Tim. iv. 10). The pilgrim path to the heavenly city, lies through the valley of "the shadow of death," where dangers surround him all the way. But its end is the "house of the Lord" (Psa. xxiii. 6), the everlasting home in which he, with all his people, shall "dwell for evermore" (Ver. 6). The pilgrim is not to be occupied with the fashions or the customs of the land through which he passes on his journey to his own country, and to his home. He does not conform to its ways, nor adopt its dress or language. So the Word tells the heaven-bound pilgrim—"Be not conformed to this world" (Rom. xii. 2), which just means—Do not become like the world in its fashions, its ways, and its empty show. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" (1 John ii. 16), because all of them are opposed to your spiritual life, and can only hinder you on your journey to heaven and to God. Let us then press on with steady steps, along the heavenward way toward the eternal city, where, like "rested pilgrims," the people of God shall shortly come, and forever dwell, to go no more out, but be with the Lord Himself and with loved ones gone before. There they shall breathe their own native air, with perfect freedom, in surroundings wholly fitted to them, where---
"The charms that woo the senses,
Shall be as pure as fair,
And all, while stealing o'er us,
Shall tell of Jesus there."
O joyful hour! toward which each weary stage of the lone wilderness journey, brings the pilgrim nearer to his home. And the last steps of which, may surely be brightened by the more ardent expectation of seeing the Lord, and of being with Him, in Heaven and at Home.
"So we sing as we haste, o'er the wide world's waste,
Of our home by the crystal sea,
Where the waving palm, and the swelling psalm,
Fill the air of Eternity."
As one who well knew what it meant in blissful experience, sang in days long, long, gone bye—
"HOME! Oh, how soft and sweet,
It thrills upon the heart;
HOME, where the children meet,
And never, never part.
HOME, where the Bridegroom takes
The purchase of His love;
HOME, where the Father waits
To welcome her above."
It is surely such home-longings and home-breathings, that befit a heavenly pilgrim. And the more that they are experienced and cultivated, the less danger will there be, to abandon the true pilgrim spirit and character, or become worldly-minded, as alas! many in our time are doing, and so drift into the ways of the world that knows not God.
Rise up and hasten! my soul haste along!
And speed on thy journey, with hope and with song;
Home, home is nearing; 'tis coming into view;
A little more of toiling, and then to earth adieu!
Loved ones in Jesus, have passed on before,
Resting in glory, they weary are no more;
Desert toils are ended, nothing now but joy,
And praises loud ascending, their ever glad employ.
V. Workers and Warriors.
WE are not saved by works, but all who are saved by grace, are saved to work for the Lord Jesus. The proper place for work, is simply set forth in Eph. ii. 8-10. There we read, "By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast." For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. As we sometimes sing—
"I do not work my soul to save,
For that the Lord has done;
But I WILL work like any slave
From LOVE to God's dear Son."
The believer works not for salvation, but constrained by the love of Christ who has saved him, from it. The Thessalonians were "turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God" (1 Thess. i. 9), by the power of the Gospel which they had received. And this service to the Lord, is not only in what is called "Christian Work," but in everything. There is no part of a believer's life secular; all is sacred; all is to be to the Lord. The Word says, "Whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. iii. 17). What cannot be done in the Lord's Name, in the light of His Word, should not be done at all, by a Christian. Our daily work in the home, in the factory, in the shop serving, it may be an ungodly master or worldly mistress, all may be done "as to the Lord." It was to servants, most of them very likely slaves, that the words were written, "Ye serve the Lord Christ" (Col. iv. 24). Whether it be running a message, sweeping a room, or brushing a pair of boots, all may be, and should be done to please the Lord Jesus. Then, in what is called "the work of the Lord" (1 Cor. xv. 58), all have their place. For "the Master of the house" gives to "every man his work" (Mark xiii. 34). There should be no idlers, no laggards in the ranks of the servants of Christ. The word is, "Be ye steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." There are sinners all around us, needing the Gospel, and saved ones to whom a word of cheer may be spoken, and a helping hand should be given. We do not need to choose our work. If we go to the Lord in the spirit of one who said, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" (Acts ix. 6), we shall soon learn what our service is, and find the sphere to which the Master has appointed us. And it is sweet to remember, that nothing done to please Him shall ever lose its reward. For---
"No service in itself is small,
None great, though earth it fill;
But that is SMALL that seeks its own,
And GREAT, that seeks God's will."
The believer is a Warrior as well as a Worker. There are enemies to meet, and victories to win. The Christian life is a warfare, as well as a race. There are three great enemies we are told about in the Word, and fitted to meet. First, The World; out from which we were brought by the Cross of Christ (Gal. i. 4), from which we are separated (John xvii. 14), and to which we are not to be conformed (Rom. xii. 2). The world is ever seeking to lure the Christian back into its embrace, to love it (1 John ii. 16), and to so lose friendship with God (Jas. iv. 4). Many once bright and happy, have lost their first love, by becoming like the world, and mixing with the ungodly. "The armour of righteousness" (2 Cor. vi.), put on and always worn, the Word of God obeyed in all its precepts, and God Himself trusted, will keep us from being overcome, for "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John v. 4). The Flesh is another foe ever in the believer, "lusting against the Spirit" (Gal. v. 17), seeking to trip him up. The old nature is not changed, nor is it taken away. But there is a new nature, and the Spirit of God, Who is the strength of the new life, helps the believer to resist and deny the desires of the old. This warfare goes on all the way, and victory is by the power of the Spirit, Who strengthens and enables the saved one to reckon himself dead to sin, not to obey its lusts, or yield his members to its service. "The armour of light" (Rom. xiii. 12), is God's safeguard against the works of the flesh. The Devil is the third great foe, and he seeks especially to keep the believer from entering on the enjoyment of his heavenly inheritance (Eph. vi. 12, with i. 3). To meet him in all his wiles, the believer is to be "strong in the Lord," and to put on "the whole armour of God," the seven parts of which are so fully named and described in Eph. vi. 13-18, defensive and offensive, all is needed by the Lord's warriors.
VI. Lights and Witnesses.
AT the time of conversion, the believing sinner is brought "out of darkness" into God's "marvellous light" (1 Pet. ii. 9). Once he "was darkness," now he is "light in the Lord" (Eph. v. 8). And it is the will of God, that the light which has been kindled in him shall so "shine," that others may see it.
The first circle in which this light is expected to shine, is in the HOME. We read in Matthew v. 15, that a candle, when lit, is put on a candlestick, "and it giveth light unto all who are in the house." Then we are told in Luke xi. 33, that when others come in, they will "see the light." This is very beautiful. It is expected that our conversion to God, and the new life we have received, will shine out first of all, among our friends and relatives, in the home. When the man who had been saved from the power of the legion of demons in Gadara, wanted to accompany the Lord across the Lake, he was told, "Return unto thine own house, and shew how great things, God hath done unto thee" (Luke viii. 39). If those in the home are unsaved, they will be more convinced of the reality of our conversion by what they see in our lives, than by what they hear from our lips. Of the Lord it is said, "The life was the light of men" (John i. 4).
Many who once opposed, and were much prejudiced against the Gospel, have been won to the Lord by means of the life testimony of those in their own homes. Even in cases where the Word cannot be spoken, because of persecution and opposition, those who oppose may be "won," when they see the manner of life of those who are the Lord's (see 1 Pet. iii. 1). Then the Christian's light is to shine in the world, that is, in the workshop, on the street, at the meal hours, during the evenings, always and everywhere. "Ye are the light of the world" (Matt. v. 14); "Among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Phil. ii. 15). Like the moon, which derives her light from the sun, and sheds it forth on the earth, the believer, living in communion with the Lord, seeing His face, with nothing between, receives from Him, and gives it out to others. We become Christ-like, by living close to the Lord Jesus. Then others take knowledge of us, that we have "been with Jesus" (Acts iv. 13). We cannot all be light-houses, shedding forth a glow of heavenly light, and thus guiding thousands of sin-tossed souls to the haven of rest, but we may all shine like the glow-worm in its lowly sphere, and by our Christ-like lives, be used in leading those around us, to the Saviour.
The believer is also a WITNESS for his absent Lord. "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me" (Acts i. 8), said the ascending Christ, just before He left the little group of disciples on Olivet, that day. And on a former occasion, He had told them, "Ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me" (John xv. 27). A witness speaks what he knows, and tells what he has seen and heard. "The Faithful Witness" Himself said, "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen" (John iii. 1), and our best qualification for bearing true testimony to our Lord is, that we are well acquainted with Him, much in His company, bearing His voice. When He was here, as God's witness for His truth on the earth (John xviii. 37), He could say, "He wakeneth morning by morning mine ear to hear," and thus He was always able to "speak a word in season to him that is weary" (Isa. i. 4). Only as we sit at Jesus' feet, and hear His Word (Luke x. 36), making the Word of God our daily companion and counsellor, shall we have the strength imparted, and the fitting Word to speak for the Lord, to those around us. "A true witness delivereth souls" (Prov. xiv. 25), and "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan. xii. 3). May we each, in our sphere, and according to our opportunities, be faithful witnesses for the Lord Jesus, whose Name we bear, and whose witnesses we are called to be, while we remain in the present world.
VII. Waiters and Watchers.
THE present world, is not the Christian's Home. It is only the place in which he sojourns, until the Lord shall come. He is a citizen of heaven; his inheritance is there (1 Pet. i. 3), and he is already "made meet" to enter on the full enjoyment of it (Col. i. 12). The attitude of the redeemed is described in many passages of the New Testament, as that of a people already saved by grace (Eph. ii. 8), separated from the world (Gal. vi. 14), serving the living and true God, and waiting "for His Son from heaven" (1 Thess. i. 10), "Looking for that blessed hope" (Titus ii. 13), "Waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. i. 7). Not death, but the coming of the Lord Jesus; His personal return from heaven, in fulfilment of His own promise, "I will come again and receive you unto Myself" (John xiv. 3), is the Christian's hope. It is for this that he waits, not for death. Although death may come, we do not say it MUST, for the Word has told us "we shall not all sleep" (1 Cor. xv. 51). Some will be "alive and remain," when the Lord descends from heaven" with a shout" (1 Thess. iv. 16)—a shout of triumph. It is this great event for which the Christian is to wait. It is to see the One Who died for him on the Cross, to be "like Him" (1 John iii. 3), and "with Him," in His "image" (1 Cor. xv. 10). The early disciples constantly lived in the expectation of their Lord's return. But as time went on, the Church lost sight of her proper hope, and began to settle down in the world. Then soon it was said, "My Lord delayeth His coming" (Matt. xxiv. 48). When we are truly waiting for the Lord, and longing for His coming, we are careful to maintain a condition of soul, and a walk in separation from the world, such as He has commanded us, in His Word. To be truly waiting for Christ, as the bride waits for the bridegroom, is to sit loose to the things around, and to be ready to go at any moment that He may call us. Then, as a precious old hymn—sung by waiting ones of earlier time—has it, we are truly able to sing—
"I wake in the morning with thoughts of His love,
Who is living for me in the glory above;
Each moment expecting He'll call me away,
And this keeps me bright, all the rest of the day."
When the Lord does come, all His own will be "caught up" to meet Him "in the air," not one of those whom He redeemed by "His own blood" will be wanting in the Father's house in that joyous hour. Thither He will lead the "many sons" whom He is bringing safely to glory, to the Home to which He has been charged by His Father to lead them. But if any are not found waiting, they will be "ashamed before Him at His coming" (1 John ii. 28). Suppose a redeemed one is found in the ballroom, or in the world's gay scenes of mirth, or trifling away the precious hours in the company of the ungodly; would a saint found in such surroundings at the Lord's coming not be "ashamed" before Him? Ah, yes. And a loser, too, of reward, such as will be given for faithful service, at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. v. 10; Rev. ii. 10). To be waiting like the virgins, with lamps all trimmed and burning brightly (Matt. xxv. 6); to be like the lone watchman on the watchtower through the long night (Isa. xxi. 10, 11), scanning the eastern sky for the breaking of the morning, so may we be kept waiting and watching for the Lord to come, ready to joyfully welcome Him; to leave the world without a sigh, and to enter upon the unclouded bliss and the endless glory, of being—"forever with the Lord." And so, living in the enjoyment and power of "that blessed hope," we shall be found "purifying" ourselves, "even as He is pure."