Brethren Archive

"I've Lost Seven Years' Enjoyment."

by W. Corrie Johnston

AFTER ten days of special meetings in a town in New Zealand, I was on the way to the railway station with my luggage.  A man, working in a garden where I was to pass, observed me approaching.  Quickly making his way to the fence, he reached over his hand, saying, "Let me shake hands with you."   "Most gladly," I replied, as it then came before me that he had been to the meetings, though we had not had the opportunity of conversing before.  "Man," he said, grasping me very warmly by the hand, "I've lost seven years' enjoyment."
"How is that?" I inquired.
He went on to tell how he had been converted seven years before.  He had felt and known that it was a real change, but he was also conscious that he had been occupied with his feelings, and had never enjoyed peace.  His time had been taken up with trying to hold on to what he had received, lest it should slip, and he should fall away.  He knew that he had something not known before, though it was an unsatisfactory experience.  He prayed, read, watched, attended meetings, always fearing that unless he was careful and persevered, he would lose the blessing.  
But he said,—"I have been hearing you at these meetings, and I now see that it is what God has said about Christ, and I'm a free man."
The simplicity, the earnestness, the gladness of the man, give his words more than usual significance.  A little reflection upon them readily suggests some very practical lessons as to how the gospel ought to be preached, heard, received, and enjoyed.
Much that is preached, fails to bring out what one might call the divine side of the gospel. Too frequently, what is heard is much more what might suit man rather than God.  Human need is more considered than divine holiness.  What the sinner needs and receives on believing is pressed so much, that what was needed for and rendered to God, in the atonement made by the Lord Jesus Christ, is frequently overlooked.  But self-interest often plans and prepares its own punishment.  Being absorbed with the thought of the sinner's need, I may forget or even fail to take in the importance of what is due to God.  The prodigal thought of bread and a servant's place instead of what alone would suit a son with the father.  But hearers naturally fall in with what is put to suit themselves.  Yet such preachers and hearers have often such poor times of it, that it would almost seem as if the blind had been leading the blind, and both had fallen into the ditch.  They have not only lost enjoyment, like the young man mentioned, but have had the positive misery of having to say—
" 'Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord, or no,
Am I His, or am I not?"
A live sheep bleating in a ditch, or in a bog, or in a thicket, is better than a dead lion.  The young man had better have lost seven years' enjoyment, than to have been all that time dead in trespasses and sins.  But there is a more excellent way than being left to either alternative.  The full gospel may be told out and received with its proper results of life, peace, liberty, and enjoyment.  It need not only be that the sinner should come forth like Lazarus, "bound hand and foot with grave clothes;" the Lord still delights to say, "Loose him, and let him go."
What the young man heard, what set him free, was that God had considered and undertaken the work that was needed, not merely to satisfy the sinner, but what was needed to satisfy God.  In giving His Son, and in accepting the work accomplished by Him in offering Himself without spot to God, it is evident that God satisfied Himself.  He has shown it by rending the veil from top to bottom, and by raising Christ to His own right hand.
He has said it by sending the Holy Spirit to testify concerning all that believe, as He does, saying, "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." (Heb. x. 17.)
God knew best yea, He knew perfectly, what sins deserved.  He also knew what would suit His own holiness and righteousness.  God alone could authoritatively set forth what would maintain His own honour and glory.  It will yet be seen that "He hath done this." (Ps. xxii. 3I)  Then it should be clear at a glance that if what is needed for God, on account of sin, is provided and accepted by God, there can be no doubt about the need of the sinner being met. Human things are poor, feeble illustrations of such a divine transaction.  But say, the utmost demands of creditors are satisfied by one of the partners of the firm paying the sum required from his private to the firm's business account, the debtor should be satisfied when he is informed of this, and receives the receipted account.  One who was his creditor, as his friend, has satisfied the legal claims of the firm.  The friend's position as a partner in the firm, is a guarantee that the arrangement is satisfactory.  The debtor will surely then fall in with and rejoice in the settlement.  The friend may be poorer as to his private means, but the firm has not sustained any loss, and so a clear receipt can be given consistently.  The debtor has simply to hear, read, believe, and give thanks for being righteously cleared through the grace of his friend.  It is an illustration of grace reigning through righteousness. (Rom. v. 21.)
In some such manner, where the young man had been present, I had been showing that God had estimated what was needed, not only on the human, but on the divine side, and had provided His own Lamb, and had accepted, as He surely would accept, the sacrifice of His own provision.  All had hitherto been done between Christ and God.  This being so, God was free, in harmony with all that He is, as a holy and righteous God, to proclaim forgiveness to sinners, to justify him that believeth in Jesus. (Rom. iii. 26.)  When the blood had been shed on the great day of atonement, it was first presented to God by being put on the mercy seat once, and then before the mercy seat seven times. (Lev. xvi. 15)  When God's nature and claims were met, the needs of the people were more than covered.
Thus, what God has provided, and found in, and said about, the work of Christ, is the good news announced to sinners.  Indeed, it is what God is as revealed in grace that needs to be proclaimed and believed to give settled peace.
Then it is no longer merely a question of your doing, your feeling, or your realizing.  If these things were true, if you felt all right within yourself, if you could conclude that you had attained to an improved state of soul, this would be good news about you, but that would not be the gospel.  The gospel is about what is outside yourself—it is good news about God.  It is not what you are to God, but what God is to you, now that Christ has died and risen.  If not to be disturbed, this must be the ground of your peace.  The One who thought, the One who wrought, the Word that declares that all is done, are all outside of, and apart from yourself.   Then peace with God is not, in the first instance, a question of your experience.  If one may so speak, God is telling you what has been the experience of Christ, and the experience of God, in connection with the accomplishing, and the acknowledging of the accomplishing, of a perfect atonement.  It is then for you to hear, and hold to be true, what God has said about Christ.  Bowing to it as the testimony of God that cannot lie, and as One who will not deceive, you may gladly say, if you cannot sing:—
"Rest, my soul the work is done,
Done by God's eternal Son;
This to faith is now so clear,
There's no room for torturing fear."
It was to this conclusion that the young man had come by hearing the gospel otherwise than he was wont to hear it preached.   He learned that God was satisfied.  Now he saw that his acceptance did not depend on how he felt, or how he held on.  In all such thoughts, he had had himself before him.  His mixed-up ideas as to the way he was accepted, and the means by which he was to be kept in God's favor, had caused continual anxiety.  While believing on Christ to begin with, he was trying to believe in himself to go on with, and so it was no marvel that he had lost seven years' enjoyment.  But with his newly found enjoyment, instead of growing careless as to how he acted, he had a new and powerful motive for seeking to please the Lord. Instead of being on himself, his eye was now on the Lord; his ear was open unto God; his thoughts about acceptance, instead of turning in upon his feelings, were governed by the thoughts of God about Christ as written in the Word.  He now saw that, rather than it being a question of his having rightly accepted Christ, it was a question of God having accepted Christ, as having done the work for him, and having seated Christ at His own right hand in token of being perfectly satisfied with the work of atonement.  Indeed, as we have seen, God had satisfied Himself.  Hearing this, believing this, the young man troubled about peace was satisfied.  He then knew the truth, and the truth set him free.  He might well say with joy and gladness, "I am a free man."
If not before now, why should you not see and say the same?  You need not lose years, or months of enjoyment.  You may have settled peace, blessed rest, even now.  You may be free indeed.  You may then have leisure to be occupied with the Person who has saved you, so as to have the heart filled with praise, and your lips opened to commend your Redeemer.  Then, as there is no longer any need for the miserable work of trying to hold on, your hands will be free for the service of the Lord.  Yielding yourself up to Him, you may say, "O Lord, I am Thy servant; Thou hast loosed my bonds."  W. C. J.
“Help and Food for the Household of Faith” 1888

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