For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5: 9-11)
“No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11
There are those who walk uprightly, very uprightly, in the fear of God, and yet have little comfortable or abiding evidence that they are at present partakers of God’s grace, or will be hereafter sharers of Christ’s glory. But this one evidence they certainly do possess, though they can take no present comfort from it, that they walk uprightly before God and man. Let no one, however deeply experienced or highly favored, despise this evidence of grace in others; and you who walk uprightly from a living principle of godly fear have here a marked testimony from the Lord himself that he has a special regard for you.
But what is it to “walk uprightly?” Oh! here is the grand difficulty in religion. We may talk; we may preach; we may hear; we may seem to believe; but it is when we come to act, to walk, and carry out into daily and hourly practice what we profess, that the main difficulty is felt and found. “The soul of religion,” says Bunyan, “is the practical part;” and it is when we come to this “practical part” that the daily, hourly cross commences. The walk, the conversation, the daily, hourly conduct is, after all, the main difficulty, as it is the all-important fruit of a Christian profession. To walk day after day, under all circumstances, and amid all the varied temptations that beset us, uprightly, tenderly, and sincerely in the fear of God; to feel continually that heart, lip, and life are all open before his all-penetrating eye; to do the things which he approves, and to flee from the things which he abhors–oh! this in religion is the steep hill which it is such a struggle to climb! We can talk fast enough; but oh! to walk in the straight and narrow path; to be a Christian outwardly as well as inwardly, before God and man, before the Church and the world; and in all points to speak and act with undeviating consistency with our profession–this is what nature never has done, and what nature never can do. In thus acting, as much as in believing, do we need God’s power and grace to work in, and be made manifest in us.
In mid-June of this year, I reached a critical point as I tried to process the veritable sea of deceit in which we daily walk. It seemed that anything and everything aside from God’s written word in its original language was corrupted to one degree or another.
Having grown up in the sixties and seventies, I lived most of my life (non-believer for about 2/3rds of my life, the last third as a believer) thinking that everything was hunky dory (just fine). Career, recreation, entertainment, and living the normal American life were things to be engaged in without critical thought or reflection. I did have a few concerns about things I saw when I reentered civilian life after twenty years in the military, but wrote them off as just the normal changes that take place in a culture over time.
Upon my conversion in 2001, I entered the “church” system and after some years of attending various churches my family and I became members of the PCA. This situation seemed to meet our needs in terms of coping with our culture and understanding why things are the way they are.
Communion with Christ—is a certain cure for every ill. Whether it is the wormwood of woe, or the cloying surfeit of earthly delight—close fellowship with the Lord Jesus will take bitterness from the one, and satiety from the other. Live near to Jesus, Christian, and it is matter of secondary importance whether you live on the mountain of honor—or in the valley of humiliation. Living near to Jesus, you are covered with the wings of God, and underneath you are the everlasting arms.
Let nothing keep you from that hallowed fellowship, which is the choice privilege of a soul wedded to the Well-beloved. Do not be content with an interview now and then—but seek always to retain His company, for only in His presence—have you either comfort or safety. Jesus should not be unto us, a friend who calls upon us now and then—but one with whom we walk evermore. You have a difficult road before you—see, O traveler to heaven, that you go not without your guide. You have to pass through the fiery furnace; enter it not unless, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you have the Son of God to be your companion. You have to storm the Jericho of your own corruptions; do not attempt the warfare until, like Joshua, you have seen the Captain of the Lord’s host, with His sword drawn in His hand. You are to meet the Esau of your many temptations; meet him not until at Jabbok’s brook you have laid hold upon the angel, and prevailed.
In every case, in every condition, you will need Jesus; but most of all, when the iron gates of death shall open to you. Keep close to your soul’s Husband, lean your head upon His bosom, ask to be refreshed with the spiced wine of His pomegranate, and you shall be found of Him at the last, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Seeing you have lived with Him, and lived in Him here—you shall abide with Him forever!
“Casting all your care upon Him—for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
It is a happy way of soothing sorrow, when we can feel, “HE cares for me.” Christian! do not dishonor religion by always wearing a brow of worry—come, cast your burden upon your Lord. You are staggering beneath a weight—which your Father would not feel. What seems to you a crushing burden—would be to Him but as the small dust of the scale. Nothing is so sweet as to
“Lie passive in God’s hands, And know no will but His.”
O child of suffering—be patient. God has not passed you over in His providence. He who is the feeder of sparrows—will also furnish you with what you need. Do not sit down in despair; hope on, hope ever. Take up the arms of faith—against a sea of trouble, and your your distresses shall end. There is One who cares for you! His eye is fixed on you! His heart beats with pity for your woe! His omnipotent hand shall yet bring you the needed help! The darkest cloud—shall scatter itself in showers of mercy. The blackest gloom—shall give place to the morning. If you are one of His family—He will bind up your wounds, and heal your broken heart. Do not doubt His grace, because of your troubles—but believe that He loves you as much in seasons of distress—as in times of happiness. What a serene and quiet life might you lead—if you would leave providing—to the God of providence!
With a little oil in the cruse, and a handful of meal in the barrel, Elijah outlived the famine, and you will do the same. If God cares for you—why need you care too? Can you trust Him for your soul—and not for your body? He has never refused to bear your burdens—He has never fainted under their weight. Come, then, soul! Be done with fretful worry—and leave all your concerns in the hand of a gracious God!
Jesus is the federal head of His elect. As in Adam, every heir of flesh and blood has a personal interest, because he is the covenant head and representative of the race as considered under the covenant of works. So under the covenant of grace, every redeemed soul is one with the Lord from heaven, since He is the Second Adam, the Sponsor and Substitute of the elect in the new covenant of love.
The apostle Paul declares that Levi was in the loins of Abraham when Melchizedek met him—it is a certain truth that the believer was in the loins of Jesus Christ, the Mediator, when in old eternity the covenant settlements of grace were decreed, ratified, and made sure forever. Thus, whatever Christ has done—He has wrought for the whole body of His Church. We were crucified in Him and buried with Him (Col. 2:10-13), and to make it still more wonderful, we are risen with Him and even ascended with Him to the seats on high (Eph. 2:6). It is thus that the Church has fulfilled the law, and is “accepted in the beloved.” It is thus that she is regarded with delight by the righteous Jehovah, for He views her in Jesus, and does not look upon her as separate from her covenant head.
As the Anointed Redeemer of Israel, Christ Jesus has nothing distinct from His Church, but all that He has—He holds for her. Adam’s righteousness was ours so long as he maintained it; and his sin was ours the moment that he committed it. And in the same manner, all that the Second Adam is or does—is ours as well as His, seeing that He is our representative. Here is the foundation of the covenant of grace. This gracious system of representation and substitution, which moved Justin Martyr to cry out, “O blessed change, O sweet substitution!” This is the very groundwork of the gospel of our salvation, and is to be received with strong faith and rapturous joy!
“You are an enclosed spring, a sealed fountain.” Song of Solomon 4:12
In this metaphor, which has reference to the inner life of a believer, we have very plainly the idea of secrecy. It is an enclosed spring. There were springs in the East, over which an edifice was built, so that none could reach them, but those who knew the secret entrance. Just so, is the heart of a believer when it is renewed by grace—there is a mysterious life within—which no human skill can touch. It is a secret which no other man knows; nay, which the very man who is the possesses it—cannot explain to his neighbor.
The text includes not only secrecy—but separation. It is not the common spring, of which every passer-by may drink, it is one kept and preserved from all others. It is a fountain bearing a particular mark—a king’s royal seal—so that all can see that it is not a common fountain—but a fountain owned by a proprietor, and placed specially by itself alone. So is it with the spiritual life. The chosen of God were separated in the eternal decree; they were separated by God in the day of redemption; and they are separated by the possession of a life which others have not. It is now impossible for them to feel at home with the world, or to delight in its pleasures.
There is also the idea of sacredness. The enclosed spring is preserved for the use of some special person—and such is the Christian’s heart. It is a spring kept for Jesus. Every Christian should feel that he has God’s seal upon him—and he should be able to say with Paul, “From henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”
Another idea is prominent—it is that of security. Oh! how sure and safe is the inner life of the believer! If all the powers of earth and hell could combine against it—that immortal principle must still exist, for He who gave it pledged His life for its preservation. And who “is He who shall harm you,” when God is your protector?
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness.
When the Christian warrior marches forth to battle, strong in his own might, when he boasts, “I know that I shall conquer, my own right arm and my conquering sword shall get unto me the victory!” then defeat is not far distant. God will not go forth with that man who marches in his own strength. He who reckons on victory by his own strength—has reckoned wrongly, for “it is not by might, nor by power—but by My Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.” They who go forth to fight, boasting of their prowess—shall return with their mirthful banners trailing in the dust, and their armor stained with disgrace.
Those who serve God—must serve Him in His own way, and in His strength, or He will never accept their service. God will never own that man who works, unaided by divine strength. The mere fruits of the earth—He casts away; He will only reap that grain, the seed of which was sown from heaven, watered by grace, and ripened by the sun of divine love.
God will empty out all that you have—before He will put His own into you; He will first clean out your granaries—before He will fill them with the finest of the wheat. The river of God is full of water—but not one drop of it flows from earthly springs. God will have no strength used in His battles—but the strength which He Himself imparts.
Are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give you victory. Your emptiness—is but the preparation for your being filled; and your casting down—is but the making ready for your lifting up!