A summary of a week of special services on the theme of:-
On the Monday evening the theme was LOVING GOD. Love is the secret of life. Life without love is never otherwise than poor. Of all the love within the possibility of human experience, the greatest and best is loving God. It is a command clearly set forth in Scripture to love God, If it was neglected all other affections are impoverished. Our capacity for giving and receiving love is limited. Yet loving God is most difficult as 1 John, 4: 20, implies.
Loving God is a reciprocal love. By ourselves we cannot even find God much less love Him. If we believe there is a God we can easily be confused about Him as we face the problems of illness, bereavement, handicap and unanswered prayer. But God insists that He is to be known in the Cross. John 3:16 is the focus of God's attitude to man and is the site of the Divine revelation. Jesus the God Man bearing our sin even unto death is the unmistakable revelation of the love of God. And any love, real love, that a human being can ever have for God is awakened at the Cross; " We love Him because He first loved us."
Love has its own ends. Love that draws two together exalts their creative instincts and so idealistically attains an exquisite exaltation, but this is often not so with Christians. They make some profession of acceptance, intellectual adherence, possibly identifying themselves with a Church and then leave the issue. Many indeed leave the matter to the priest who sprinkles them at a month old, and the bishop who lays his hands on them in youth, but there is no real issue of love. It is just like a couple being married and forsaking each other at the church door! In the Scriptures, however, he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. True love is the ecstasy of the born again spirit in unfettered joyful communion with God in His Beloved Son. How shall this be?
There is no exclusive path for love but there are certain common features that we may identify.
First it is our duty. To love Him is more important than Baptism, the Lord's Supper, orthodoxy, believing the Bible from cover to cover or even being occupied in what we call Christian service. All these important matters will have their proper place when the heart is really and sincerely given up to love God.
Secondly, since it is my duty to love God He will enable me by His grace to fulfil the duty.
Thirdly, the more I love Him the more I shall really enter into true life.
Therefore I may and should make it my first business in life to love God and be ready to welcome every discipline that will enable me to love Him more.
The believer who reaches these conclusions, as every believer should, can now take the practical steps in love. Since God reveals His love at the Cross it must be at the Cross that I shall begin to love Him and may go on to love Him more and more. Therefore, first there must be serious, frequent, prayerful reflection on the mystery of Divine love in the condescension of Christ, His incarnation, shedding of blood, travail of soul, conflict in Hades, resurrection and ascension all for me as if I were the one and only human being who had gone astray and needed to be saved. Meditation on the revelation of the word, careful and sincere reflection at the Communion Table, the daily offering of a thankful heart will help. This will enable the believer to see his own lost estate. For if Christ came so low for our salvation it was because of our low condition. David saw that when he declared: " He brought me up also out of a horrible pit." As we seek to love Him more and more the Holy Spirit will show us ever more profoundly how low was our estate and how low we had sunk in word, thought and deed. Out of all this by the light of the Holy Spirit we shall conclude that if He were thus willing to give up His place in heaven to come down so low for me then I may surely reciprocate His love by yielding my fellowship in the race of Adam to love Him without reserve. As I insist and persist in grace my spirit will at last be set free to love Him as I should and I shall know an ecstasy with God in an ever purifying love. I shall be in Lovers' Lane!
This line of thought proved to be a useful preparation for the following evening when the theme was LOVING ONE ANOTHER. If there is difficulty in loving God there is also difficulty in a Church in loving one another. The Bible, however, makes it clear that nothing will avail with God if we refuse to love our brother. First we considered the Constitution of the Believer. He is sealed with the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), and this means the Creative Spirit wills to be active in the life. He ministers (Romans 5:5) by shedding abroad the love of God in the heart. Many Christians do not recognise this ministry, indeed they seem to know nothing about the life of the Spirit in the believer. They have a faith for Jesus on the Cross dying but not a faith for Jesus on the Throne living! But where the believer recognises the presence and ministry of the Spirit he discerns the essential distinction between the believer and the world, and necessarily gravitates towards those who share with him life in the Spirit.
This brought us to the Constitution of the Church. There is not the least support for the conception of the Church as some rigid ecclesiastical system in reference to which we are either in or out. There is the local assembly of those truly gathered in the Name of the Lord Jesus and it is greatly to be regretted that all believers in any locality are not able to join together. At the same time they can respect one another's convictions and love one another in the Lord. This is important because Scripture also reveals the Church as the Body of Christ.
The Apostle tells us it is essential that the Body should he discerned. In Scripture there is the Bread which is His body and is taken at the Communion Service. It is beyond the power of any person to change the substance of the Bread and those who claim to be able to do so can submit no evidence within the material realm or any revelation within the spiritual to substantiate their claims. At the same time the action of the mouth with the bread is the action of the born again spirit in being nourished by Christ Himself and is of transcendent life-giving power when received by the born again believer who truly with all the heart loves the Lord.
There is also His body in heaven. In Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead in bodily fashion. He is the Man in heaven with our humanity glorified. He is the One Eternal Link between the Divine and the Human. Finally, there is the Body of those who are united by faith in Christ, branches in the Vine, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. All who thus discern the Body know it to be the supreme fellowship in heaven and earth, It is not a system demonstrated by outward rites to the world but the Body of Christ discerned by those within it and otherwise hidden. Therefore, inevitably the believer finds his fellowship in the Body of Christ. He looks to the Lord and conscious of the Lord's love to him, he reciprocates it, however poorly. He is in fellowship with fellow believers in the Spirit and whenever they meet they know and discern each other. Life leaps to life as in the case of Mary and Elizabeth.
So a fellowship of love is experienced as the love life of Jesus in heaven
flows into the heart of each believer and out to all other believers.
Where a Church attains to this, its members being conscious of the one Body, seeking to be channels of the Divine love, one to another, it realises something of its high calling, it becomes glorious to God and marvellous in its influence on men. Love constitutes the power of the Church. A strong Church is a Church with knowledge and an experience of Divine love within the body. If a Church or Churches are united in faith, service, campaigns and even evangelistic enterprises all will fail unless every individual concerned is conscious of the Body in mystery and is in love with the Lord for the power of His life.
Therefore the body is one. In each the Holy Spirit is shedding abroad the love
of God producing humility, patience, long-suffering and generally a unique capacity
for all the supreme characteristics of our Lord. If one member suffers in bereavement,
illness, earthly loss, adversity, the whole body suffers and will in tender
love minister to his need. It is, however, also true that if one member suffers
by failure in faith, carnality and lust all likewise suffer. That is to say
the members of the body are not to become indignant, they are not to denounce,
but they are to take the sin upon their hearts as if it were their own and to
repent before God as if it were theirs and theirs alone. The affliction of the
Body must be felt. The unity of the Body in love will be largely determined
by the extent to which we resolve the sins of others in substitutionary repentance.
The "weak" Christian can be an irritating individual, he can be a bombast, sometimes quarrelsome. He can be a piece of dynamite susceptible to the slightest touch. We have to remember that " weak " Christians are found amongst those who think themselves to be strong, and this makes the problem more intricate. There is, it would seem, but one way out. When we find ourselves distressed, provoked and angered by the impact of another, and we are hurt and annoyed, we must seek to be delivered from the mesmerism of the evil in our brother by fastening our affections afresh on the Lord in heaven until the Spirit of God once more sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts. In all the personal issues that arise between believers, arguments, hopes of self-vindication, swift judgement are vain illusions. We must recognise that the issue is not between ourselves and another, but in our holding on to the Lord that the Spirit may do His work within us once again so flooding our hearts with the love of God.
If this be the way of obedience and faith we can be sure that God will take care of what we regard as our interests. Jesus died believing the Father would take care of Him. In effect we die as we resign our issues to the Lord. God will deal with the brother concerned and will give him the spirit of repentance wherein alone he can once again enjoy resurrection life or leave him to judgement. Nothing is more painful than the onslaughts of people who profess to be led to do hurt and wound at the guidance of God, but if we look into our own hearts we may see how easily this amazing fact can be. Therefore the secret of blessing is here. The enemy is always seeking to cause strife. Ask God to grant you continually the ministry of His Spirit within you. The love of God in all its wonder and simplicity can give us the capacity to bear as He bore and to breathe the Spirit of the love of God through eye, hand and voice. Let us each one resolve that in any and every issue arising amongst the people of God it will be our concern to bring to the issue a capacity for the love of God, a willingness to suffer, to be misunderstood. For all the unity we enjoy we sincerely thank God. Let us make true unity our continual aim and through it will come blessing abundant.
Having thought about reciprocal love and renewing love, we came on the third
evening to redeeming love. Our attention was focussed on the relationship of
the believer to the unsaved.
We were reminded of the power of wickedness, which was certainly not diminishing and, indeed, could be said to be increasing. The drift from religion expressed not so much in hostility as in ignorance and indifference It was comparatively easy to get over to men truth within the material sphere, but the "god of this world" strangely blinds the minds of men to the Gospel. In the religious world there are people who call themselves Christians who have little or no interest in the Bible and no knowledge of the salvation therein revealed. Thousands assume they are Christians while many have heard the Gospel so frequently that they are hardened against its appeal.
Amongst God's people there are many that are not concerned about the issue of souls. They occupy a position of complete neutrality. They have no interest in presenting Christ to men. Some think evangelism is a matter of getting people on to church premises, hoping thereby they may take some interest in religion. It is also true that some develop an unhealthy bias. They rightly believe the Gospel is to be preached to every creature, they are fascinated by work overseas, thrilled with a missionary film and sincerely earnest in their support of missionaries who go to other lands. But the Gospel to every creature also implies the duty of every one of us to bear witness and some of " the every creatures " will be found in the street next to the Chapel and in the folk we meet every day. There is also the amazing indifference amongst children, which is a continual heartache to workers in our schools.
Now there are a number of considerations. It is the spirit of the times, and some think a change will come in due course. Most religious organisations seek for a solution in improving their methods and lessons. There does, however, seem to be a craze for the idea that if only the churches will unite the problem will be solved. Let the churches unite without any thought as to how far they are agreed on the message to be delivered! There is a tendency to feel that in uniting they feel themselves to be evangelical and doing a good job. If that were the solution we would give ourselves to it with all our hearts.
Is there an answer to this tremendous problem? Is it possible for us to put the finger on the spot with some assurance that we are near the real solution? We love God through the Cross, we love one another in the Body where every personal strain and stress becomes a crying out to God for more of the Holy Spirit ministering His love. Once again then look at the revelation in Christ. There our Lord took flesh, and within the human sphere declared the will of God, right, reasonable and blessed. He indicated God's holiness by absolute obedience even unto death. God manifested His love in that He spared not His Son His only Begotten. Therefore God's holiness not only expresses His being but also declares it is essential to human happiness. If God is Who He is, then holiness in man is the essential , all else is vain. To this may be added the realisation that if God's love is true then Calvary is a necessity within the Being of God as being the one way out from the disintegration of the whole human race. Therefore we see clearly the inflexible hatred of God against sin linked with His illimitable love for the sinner.
Many Christians, however, are mixed up in the matter of sin and the sinner. John, in his epistle, writes: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world." None has entirely escaped that world of which the apostle writes. It stands in direct opposition to the will of God. It is in conflict with our love for God and our hearts must decide the issue as to which commands our love, the world or God. It must be resolved in solemn definite fashion. When we give our love sincerely to God, the Holy Spirit will continually replenish that love within us and will give us power of will and faith to confess the pull of the world, to renounce it and to yield to Him.
If this is done we can become evangelical but not before. No man is competent
to be an evangelist until as God knows his heart he loves the Father and has
renounced the world. Now we can go from house to house, now we can bear a testimony
because we stand with God in His holiness, in His hatred of sin, and God gives
us then, and not until then, His pure illimitable love for the sinner. It is
in this deep twin emotion in our hearts as in the heart of God that we shall
know a love for the unlovely. When we are one with God in His holiness and one
with Him in His love for the sinner, then all the redeeming processes of grace
will be as strong in us as they are in God. We shall be channels animated with
a deep insatiable longing that others shall be reconciled to God, delivered
from their love of the world and given up in love to God as ourselves.
This will mean much. There may have to be a revolutionary struggle within before we shall be evangelical. We shall see that to enter upon a campaign with less than this may be to court disaster, perhaps to ourselves but also to those we are seeking. We have to face the fact that people make a response quite sincerely and soon forsake the way of grace. We shall do well not to blame them too much until we have searched our own hearts before God as to whether when we broached them we were truly standing with God in His hatred of sin and in His illimitable love for the sinner. It will mean we shall not have so many people joining the external organisation without any spiritually reproductive powers but out of our hatred against sin and our love for the sinner by the grace of God there will be real born again souls, men and women whose spirits are brought alive from the dead to be vital and fruitful to His glory and praise.
The question was pressed: Does this appear to be the answer we are seeking?
If this is the secret, are we prepared so to love God that we cannot love the
world at enmity against Him? Would we for the sake of lost men and women forsake
the world and love the unlovely that we might bring them to be lovely in His
sight? In the answer to the question we settle and determine much of our future
What a responsibility for any believer in such circumstances to choose the world!
So we came to the concluding evening. Three rewards were intimated. First, FELLOWSHIP with God. Two verses were quoted: John 14: 21 and 23, " He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him." Our Lord explicated this in verse 23: " If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." Revelation, therefore, is inward and mystical. When under the ministry of the Spirit we first consciously by faith receive Divine love the Spirit proceeds to set up within us all the solemnities of the Trinity, not in fleeting visitations of blessing but to settle down, to abide, to make the heart the home. There are wonderful results in such a holy fellowship of love. Every human being is conscious from time to time of inward insufficiency. The worldling and the carnal believer at once resort to things and persons for satisfaction, but the resort is a dope and a drug. But when a heart filled with love for God is the home of the Trinity in grace and unction then that heart is fully and forever satisfied. All the changing experiences of life do but bring out the extraordinary resources of Divine love to meet the need.
Such a fellowship creates stability. Human nature cannot stabilise itself; it is incapable of self-consistency. In every human there are contradictions of personality, a Dr. Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde. That is why there is a saying current that if one would know a person one must live with him. But when love has made room for this Holy fellowship the Spirit matures us as we are willing, not to self consistency which is impossible, but into perfect harmony with the glorious Trinity of life and love within. Indeed being so rooted and grounded in love we are filled with all the fulness of God and that means Christ-likeness. As the Father dwelt in the Son to manifest Himself to the world. so the Spirit dwells within us to make it our highest delight as it is our greatest privilege to set forth the love of God to a needy world,
After fellowship comes FRUIT. If we have followed thus far then as branches in the Vine we shall bear fruit. We do not have to look at ourselves but look to Him. The Great Husbandman will see that in our lives that pleases Him and that means that all His pleasure will bring us likewise joy. It will also be a life that loves men to God, creating in others what God has created in us. We shall be so at one with God that whatsoever we shall ask the Father in His Name will be done.
Finally there was a word on THE FUTURE. The word from 1 Cor. 2:9 was read "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." That is to say that carnal man has no faculty for apprehending the realities of the world hidden from his senses. God, however, does reveal them by the Indwelling Spirit to the heart that loves Him. There those glories in measure are unveiled and not only so but the Spirit confirms to the believer his participation in them. It is no impudent, ignorant assumption, as men may think but the quiet acceptance of the born again believer of the truth of a glory he is to share, although utterly unworthy of it. It is to this good that all things are working for the one whose heart truly loves God. (Romans 8:28).
So Lovers' Lane is a glorious glade leading more and more unto the perfect day. Every turn in the road discloses some new favour, some priceless treasure, some revelation fresh from heaven for the heart. Everything in the lane speaks of the glory to which we move. Heavenly communing in a heart that loves God are a daily strength, and every step quickens the hope, for the night is passing and at the end of the lane He Who has been with us will unveil His glory. We shall know that the secret of seeing Him is approximation to His heart in love, for at the end of Lovers' Lane we shall see Him as He is.
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