The Way of Power.
Notes of an Address to Christian Workers.
THE real truth about persons and things is not always seen on the surface. It does not do to judge by what is exterior; it would sometimes lead us utterly astray. Remember, "The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Sam. xvi. 7). And this searching truth may have its application to us, professed servants of the Lord.
You may say, "That is striking a rather gloomy note." Believe me, it is a necessary one . . . I am sure of it. I speak as one looking at things as they might be, and comparing them with what they are. It is better for us to face matters than to live in a fool's paradise. I believe that, as servants of the Lord, we are in very low water. There is a great lack of power amongst us. Prayer and fasting, thank God, are not altogether unknown, but, if one may speak for another, the lack of power is great! Now God means to bless us----I have every confidence in that, but He makes our soul-prosperity conditional. We want to be the best servants going, but a very little mars our usefulness, breaks our communion, grieves the Holy Spirit and hinders God from using us as He would.
Let me turn you to 2 Chronicles xxix. 3-11. Here we get one of the most remarkable revivals of Old Testament times. But observe the one great condition the blessed God lays down, and it holds good to-day----sanctity, personal sanctity.
"Sanctify yourselves." That comes first, and then collective sanctity. "Sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers." Personal and collective holiness----such is the great condition. And if God enjoins sanctity, He sets to work Himself to bring it about. He loved the people. His hand was in this revival. He wanted to get them right and to place them on a wave of blessing and of power. So He worked in a two-fold way----first, in leading them to self-judgment, and secondly, in setting before them His own goodness. That is God's way when He wants to lift us up. Nothing is more irksome to a Christian who feels he is not going on quite right than for him to try to be good. I dare say most of us have been on that line. We may not have had in our souls the sense of our pleasing God as Enoch had. When that is the case, there is nothing more wearisome than trying to be good. But if the love of Christ constrains us, there is nothing more blessed than to walk in the path of obedience. You cannot help it, because He makes His goodness pass before you, and it lays hold of you with living power. If God is to raise us up and revive us, and make us men and women of power like Stephen, then that is the way God will work; blessed be His name!
Where are the Stephens nowadays? Where are the servants of Christ like that man, full of the Holy Ghost, full of faith, wisdom, and power, looking up into the glory; where are they?
In the Gospel of Luke almost everybody that received blessing, received it low down. You will never get blessing if you assume to be anything. We have plenty to humble us, and God wants to lift us up; but we have to go down and God will then pass, in Divine power, His goodness before our souls. What a blessed God to deal with us in that way! He does not use the whip, but pleads with us. That is the way he won my heart----a poor sceptic, and a fatalist. I found I needed a Saviour if any man did, and learned that there was only one Man in the whole universe that was of any good to me. God sent Christ into the world not only to uphold His glory, but to break Satan's power, to save my soul, to win my affection, to gain my confidence, and to have me with Him throughout the eternal ages! That is the way God works. Let us keep in view how God might use us in His sovereign grace, if we were only vessels more meet for the Master's use. Someone has said that God can use a crooked stick, but He cannot use a dirty one. Now, I believe we are tainted with leaven. ''Oh," you say, "that's a strong statement!" You think, possibly, that I am overstating the case? Well, I will take you to a Scripture. Look at 2 Timothy iii. 10. Paul speaks of his doctrine and manner of life, and as you read the passage, you can but feel there was no discrepancy between that man's doctrine and his manner of life in every circle of relationship and responsibility here. Will any one of us stand up and declare there is no discrepancy between his doctrine and his manner of life? In proportion to the discrepancy, so is the leaven.
Oh! may it become apparent to us----may God search us through and through! If we cannot take the ground the apostle took, why not? In ourselves, our family, our home, our profession, our business, our employment----is there any taint of leaven there? I leave the question. God search us all! And then as to the world----there are two sides, its profanity and its religion. Are we tainted with its motives and its ways? I ask the question and leave the answer to yourselves.
I go back to the history of this revival in Hezekiah's day. Observe how thorough the searching, the self-judgment was. They went down. They accepted the great principle of personal and collective sanctity. "Be ye clean, ye that bear the vessels of the Lord" says Scripture. "The priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord, to cleanse it.'' Everything was done thoroughly. May you and I be equally thorough. Let us not, I beseech you, assume to be what we are not. We want to be true, effectual servants of God----is, then, the Psalmist's prayer an unbecoming prayer for us? ''Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." I do not think it unbecoming, and if you agree with me, may, I ask you to pray that prayer, and to cry to God as he cried?
There were two ways which God took to bring to pass His desire for His people. We have seen the one and now let us look at the other. See what is brought before us in verse 11. It is a wonderful tale of the sovereignty of God's love----"the Lord hath chosen you.'' Every bit of blessing we have received, has reached us in the sovereignty of God's love, but the enjoyment of it rests with ourselves. If your soul is to prosper, there must be sanctity. Then comes sonship. "My sons, be not now negligent." All this, for us Christians, takes us to the Epistle to the Ephesians, in which we are face to face with the sovereignty of God's love, then sonship, then liberty to stand before Him as here, we see how that blessed One has come out for God's glory to take us from the dunghill and set us among princes, that our souls may prosper, that we may be vigorous, and that the whole truth of God may be vital, living and operative in our souls by the Spirit. It ought to be the delight of our hearts to meditate on all that God the Father has counselled from all eternity, on all that God the Son has effected for the Father, on all that the Spirit of God has come from Heaven to earth to bear witness to us of. Then should we be "like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper'' (Ps. i. 3).
It is thus that God spreads out before us the counsels of His love. He says to us, so to speak, "I want you to understand the deep desires of My heart. I have chosen you; you are My sons; you are in liberty before Me, and there is no cloud. As Christ is in My sight, so are you." Is this true to your faith?----Christ's place before God, as man, His place in the Father's heart----is this your place and mine? And we shall be with Him and like Him, and every glory God has given Him, He is going to share with us.
Look at the dignity and blessedness of the next clause of the verse: "The Lord hath chosen you." He seems to say, "I want you for Myself, for My Own affection; I cannot do without you." And more, ''to stand before Him, to serve Him.'' Not to serve one another, nor brethren, nor saints, nor sinners, but to serve Him. I don't believe a servant is worth his salt unless he has the blessed God before him. It is our Master we serve, and in serving Him, we shall serve those we want to serve, and serve them well. In this we have His Own example, for He was the pattern Servant. Our attention is called to Him. "Behold My Servant, Whom I uphold; Mine Elect, in Whom My soul delighteth." We hear Him saying, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me," and "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." He came here to serve His God, to serve me, to place Himself at my disposal, but the glory of God was what was supreme. Now God says here, "I want you to serve Me, to minister to Me." What, then, should be the motive in all our service? To give joy to the blessed One Whom we serve, to minister to Him. That does not detract from our serving men in our day and generation. It adds dignity to our service.
Then what is the theme? They were to burn "incense." On the great day of atonement; they were to have ''incense beaten small." And what is the meaning of "incense"? What is it a figure of, if it be not the Christ of God? Our motive, the glory of God; our theme: Christ. There is no other Man in the wide universe of the slightest use to you and me but the Daysman, the great Redeemer. He was the only One Who could give us relief and bring us to God; for sin, death, judgment, and Satan's power had to be faced. What joy it is to preach Christ----to tell sinners of the mighty God, come in grace in the person of His beloved Son to bring them relief, and to set them before His face in all the value of Christ's precious blood and in the sweet savour of His person. Would to God it were livingly burnt into our souls! It is profound, indeed! The most stupendous fact in this world's history is the entry of the Son of God into this world, His passage through it, and His exit out of it. The burning of incense then is, first of all, the presentation to God of Christ, in our Iives, our worship, and then to man in testimony.
One further thought. In verses 27-28, God says, if I may put it so, "As you go serving, I want you to sing." Happy servants! standing in all the value of the Atonement, knowing the sovereignty of God's love, rejoicing in the liberty of grace, their one motive to give Him pleasure, and their one theme the Son of God! There is nothing more profoundly blessed than to be endowed by God in this wonderful way. "When the burnt offerings began, the song of the Lord began also." They were to sing. Sing what? The song of redemption? No! You cannot serve till you can sing that song. You have no right to be a servant till you are in the liberty of grace. God would lead us to the highest point, and what is that? Fellowship with God. They sang the song of the Lord. It was the song connected with the burnt-offering aspect of the death of Christ. There is the song of redemption. Israel sang it at the Red Sea. And we sing it when we see the foe defeated and stand on the other side of death and judgment. That is liberty. Now you can go on to fellowship with God in that aspect of the death of Jesus where He is seen as devoting Himself to death for the glory of God. "I want you," God says, ''to share with Me in all the delight I have in the Son of My love. I want to raise you to the highest pinnacle of blessing. I want you to be out-and-out servants, and that your service should partake of this character, not only that you are in liberty before Me, but that you are in fellowship with Me about My beloved Son."
The singing continued "until the burnt offering was finished." If your singing begins here, when is it going to end? Never, because the savour of the burnt offering is never going to end! Oh, beloved, this is the way God presents Himself to us. May God in His mercy recover us, if we need it, revive us, and then experimentally maintain us at the height of our calling. I believe, in my soul, that everything worth having is within our reach, although we are in a day of decline. God discourages the double-minded man. Such shall have nothing (James i. 6, 8). But He encourages the upright man----the man who gives God His rights. "Unto the upright, there ariseth light in the darkness." No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly. The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Everything is within our reach. But there must be sanctity. Before you go up in blessing and power, you have to go down in self-judgment. God wants us to be in liberty, in all the sovereignty of His love, to know that we are sons, to serve Him, to minister to His joys, to burn incense, and as we go serving, to sing.
May God in His mercy bless these feeble words to accomplish His Own work in our souls, that we may be men and women of power, full of wisdom, faith, and of the Holy Ghost, having our hearts engaged with that blessed One. Do not be afraid of telling people that Jesus loves you. "We love Him, because He first loved us." "The Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me." What we need is to have our affections right. The day of glory dazzles----well it may, but the coming of the Lord to receive us to Himself touches our affections. The dearest thing to the heart of Christ is the Church for which He bled. He is waiting with longing heart for the hour when He will come and present us to Himself----"a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." We must go in with Christ before we can come out with Him in glory. The greater thing, I believe, to the heart of the Son of God, is for Him to come and take His people up. Mean-time, may God keep our hearts right.