When the Spirit would glorify Jesus, He humbles you.
When He would glorify His fullness, He makes you feel your emptiness.
When He would bring you to rely on His strength, He convinces you of your weakness.
When He would magnify the comforts of Jesus, He makes you sensible of your misery.
When He would fix your heart on His Heaven, He makes you feel your deserved Hell.
When He would exalt His righteousness, you find that you are a poor, miserable sinner.
My friend, let nothing keep you from Jesus. Whatever you need, whatever you feel is wrong with you, may it bring you to the Savior’s fullness! Oh, that all things may help forward your acquaintance with Him, I except nothing, neither sin nor sorrow! I would carry all to Him as one great lump of sin, and receive all from Him, as the only storehouse of good for wretched sinners.
In this communion I desire to grow; for this I desire to live. Oh, that you and I may learn it more, and every day get nearer fellowship with our sweet Jesus, growing up into Him in all things.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. -Ephesians 3:8
The apostle Paul felt it a great privilege to be allowed to preach the gospel. He did not look upon his calling as a drudgery, but he entered upon it with intense delight. Yet while Paul was thus thankful for his office, his success in it greatly humbled him. The fuller a vessel becomes, the deeper it sinks in the water. Idlers may indulge a fond conceit of their abilities, because they are untried; but the earnest worker soon learns his own weakness.
If you seek humility, try hard work; if you would know your nothingness, attempt some great thing for Jesus. If you would feel how utterly powerless you are apart from the living God, attempt especially the great work of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ, and you will know, as you never knew before, what a weak unworthy thing you are.
Although the apostle thus knew and confessed his weakness, he was never perplexed as to the subject of his ministry. From his first sermon to his last, Paul preached Christ, and nothing but Christ. He lifted up the cross, and extolled the Son of God who bled thereon. Follow his example in all your personal efforts to spread the glad tidings of salvation, and let “Christ and him crucified” be your ever recurring theme.
The Christian should be like those lovely spring flowers which, when the sun is shining, open their golden cups, as if saying, “Fill us with thy beams!” but when the sun is hidden behind a cloud, they close their cups and droop their heads. So should the Christian feel the sweet influence of Jesus; Jesus must be his sun, and he must be the flower which yields itself to the Sun of Righteousness. Oh! to speak of Christ alone, this is the subject which is both “seed for the sower, and bread for the eater.” This is the live coal for the lip of the speaker, and the master-key to the heart of the hearer.
When we look at the universe, we wonder at the magnificence. We stand in awe as the massive spheres move perfectly in their orbits. We stand amazed at the power of our sun and realize it pales in comparison to many other stars, let alone the vastness of it all.
There is, without a doubt, a glory announced by the universe that causes us all to marvel, but we must realize the glory that is declared is not the glory of the universe; it is the glory of God. The experience we have is true knowledge of the Lord Almighty. Now, we must not misunderstand this, the verse in the Psalm 19 does not say that the universe is God. In fact, it is clearly distinct from him in this passage, but the Glory that we are experiencing is our Father’s. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made (Romans 1: 20).”
This is where the natural man steps in and attempts to suppress that truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Many naturalists say it should be enough for us to marvel at this world and all its complexities without any appeal to God, and this is what we should expect them to say since the natural progression from trading the truth of God for a lie, is to begin worshiping the creation instead of the creator (Romans 1:25). This is exactly what they are doing when they ascribe the glory that belongs to God to creation itself.
As for believers, we have every reason to rejoice and praise our Father who made it all. All we need to do to get a glimpse of His splendor is slow down, look around, and with childlike wonder, recognize glory of God.
It is quite certain that those whom Christ has washed in his precious blood need not make a confession of sin, as culprits or criminals, before God the Judge, for Christ has forever taken away all their sins in a legal sense, so that they no longer stand where they can be condemned, but are once for all accepted in the Beloved; but having become children, and offending as children, ought they not every day to go before their heavenly Father and confess their sin, and acknowledge their iniquity in that character? Nature teaches that it is the duty of erring children to make a confession to their earthly father, and the grace of God in the heart teaches us that we, as Christians, owe the same duty to our heavenly Father. We daily offend, and ought not to rest without daily pardon.
For, supposing that my trespasses against my Father are not at once taken to him to be washed away by the cleansing power of the Lord Jesus, what will be the consequence? If I have not sought forgiveness and been washed from these offences against my Father, I shall feel at a distance from him; I shall doubt his love to me; I shall tremble at him; I shall be afraid to pray to him: I shall grow like the prodigal, who, although still a child, was yet far off from his father. But if, with a child’s sorrow at offending so gracious and loving a Parent, I go to him and tell him all, and rest not till I realize that I am forgiven, then I shall feel a holy love to my Father, and shall go through my Christian career, not only as saved, but as one enjoying present peace in God through Jesus Christ my Lord.
There is a wide distinction between confessing sin as a culprit, and confessing sin as a child. The Father’s bosom is the place for penitent confessions. We have been cleansed once for all, but our feet still need to be washed from the defilement of our daily walk as children of God.
Ever to be remembered is that best and brightest of hours, when first we saw the Lord, lost our burden, received the roll of promise, rejoiced in full salvation, and went on our way in peace. It was springtime in the soul; the winter was past; the mutterings of Sinai’s thunders were hushed; the flashings of its lightnings were no more perceived; God was beheld as reconciled; the law threatened no vengeance, justice demanded no punishment. Then the flowers appeared in our heart; hope, love, peace, and patience sprung from the sod; the hyacinth of repentance, the snowdrop of pure holiness, the crocus of golden faith, the daffodil of early love, all decked the garden of the soul. The time of the singing of birds was come, and we rejoiced with thanksgiving; we magnified the holy name of our forgiving God, and our resolve was, “Lord, I am thine, wholly thine; all I am, and all I have, I would devote to thee. Thou hast bought me with thy blood–let me spend myself and be spent in thy service. In life and in death let me be consecrated to thee.” How have we kept this resolve? Our espousal love burned with a holy flame of devoutedness to Jesus–is it the same now?
Might not Jesus well say to us, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love”? Alas! it is but little we have done for our Master’s glory. Our winter has lasted all too long. We are as cold as ice when we should feel a summer’s glow and bloom with sacred flowers. We give to God pence when he deserveth pounds, nay, deserveth our heart’s blood to be coined in the service of his church and of his truth. But shall we continue thus? O Lord, after thou hast so richly blessed us, shall we be ungrateful and become indifferent to thy good cause and work? O quicken us that we may return to our first love, and do our first works! Send us a genial spring, O Sun of Righteousness.
I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. – Isaiah 44:22
Sins Like Clouds
Attentively observe the instructive similitude: our sins are like a cloud. As clouds are of many shapes and shades, so are our transgressions. As clouds obscure the light of the sun, and darken the landscape beneath, so do our sins hide from us the light of Jehovah’s face, and cause us to sit in the shadow of death. They are earth-born things, and rise from the miry places of our nature; and when so collected that their measure is full, they threaten us with storm and tempest. Alas! that, unlike clouds, our sins yield us no genial showers, but rather threaten to deluge us with a fiery flood of destruction. O ye black clouds of sin, how can it be fair weather with our souls while ye remain?
The Clouds Blotted Out
Let our joyful eye dwell upon the notable act of divine mercy–“blotting out.” God himself appears upon the scene, and in divine benignity, instead of manifesting his anger, reveals his grace: he at once and forever effectually removes the mischief, not by blowing away the cloud, but by blotting it out from existence once for all. Against the justified man no sin remains, the great transaction of the cross has eternally removed his transgressions from him. On Calvary’s summit the great deed, by which the sin of all the chosen was forever put away, was completely and effectually performed.
Return to the Lord
Practically let us obey the gracious command, “return unto me.” Why should pardoned sinners live at a distance from their God? If we have been forgiven all our sins, let no legal fear withhold us from the boldest access to our Lord. Let backslidings be bemoaned, but let us not persevere in them. To the greatest possible nearness of communion with the Lord, let us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, strive mightily to return. O Lord, this night restore us!
Surely I am with you all the days, to the very end of the age! -Matthew 28:20
The path in front of me may be full of flowers or full of thorns. Or, as is more probable, flower and thorn may be mingled together. The sky may be light or dark. The weather may be glorious summer or bleakest winter. But I go safely and happily, if the Lord Jesus, who can and will supply my every need, is with me all the days.
Days of Discipline
Some of the days will be days of discipline of the pruning knife and the cleansing fire. But when He is with me, the discipline is a blessing, and not a curse. It teaches me to grasp His strong right hand with a tighter hold, to pray more earnestly, to find heights and depths of meaning in the promises of God, to feel for others who are in tribulation.Mind and heart and character are bettered by the endurance of affliction.
Days of Monotony
Many of the days, too, will be days of monotony. They must be spent in little things–household labors, common concerns, unnoticed toil. I may long for a more striking and interesting experience. But when He is with me, I know that He makes my life like His own–the blessed life He lived among carpenters’ tools, and village streets, and peasant people. The drudgery is a love-message; it is Jesus Christ in disguise!
Days of Temptation
Every day will be a day of temptation. In the home, in the business, in company, in loneliness; I shall encounter the devil’s subtle snares. But let my Lord be with me, and temptation will but reveal the closeness and blessedness of the tie. It will be an instrument which He uses to impart more maturity to my graces, more courage, more patience, more trust.
Day of Death
Perhaps one of the days will be the day of death. But if He does not leave or forsake me, then death will be an ingredient in the training that fits me for the glorious inheritance! As John Bunyan pictures it, I must cross the ‘River of Death’ to reach the ‘Celestial City’. Jesus did it Himself, and the disciple is not above the Master. His Everlasting Arms will sustain me in the flood; and, on the other side, I shall enter the ‘Beautiful Gate’ and see His face!
All Your Days
All the days He is with me to the end, and through the end, and beyond the end forever and ever! Whether I live, therefore, or whether I die, I am His and He is mine!
The Lord is on my side, I will not fear. – Psalm 118:6
What can illness do to the Christian? Is it not in the sovereign hands of the Lord? Every pain and every distress is under the supreme authority of our God. Even if Satan and his legions are involved, they are only permitted to go as far as His hand allows, and He could reverse their work in an instant if he decided to do so. Even if the illness is due to sinful choices, is not Jesus the forgiver of sins and restorer?
If we face any illness, no matter the cause, God does not cease to be in control. Did He know this was coming? Does He have the power to stop it? Most certainly. The logic that flows from these two truths is that God is the final decision-maker for everything that comes against us.
What, then, can illness do to us if it is under the providence of God? It can afflict, but not crush. It can perplex, but cannot drive us to despair. It can even strike down, but it cannot destroy.
On the contrary, sickness, sovereignly wielded like a scalpel in the hand of our good God, can only heal us. For all things work together for those that love Him (Rom. 8:28), and disease certainly does not fall outside the category of “all things.” By it, He weans us from the passing treasure of this world, and He teaches us to redeem the time. In all of it, He is spurring us on to holiness, and holiness is where we will find our true happiness.
Lord, we resign ourselves to your perfect will. We will fight for our health because your word tells us our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and anyone who destroys the temple will also be destroyed (1 Cor. 3:16-17). However, we leave the results of our fight in your hands because we know that even if the outward man is wasting away, the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16).
We will not look on the things that are seen but the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). In this way, we will not lose hope, and we will find peace in the pain, deliverance in the distress, and healing in the hurt.
Whatever trials you have, my dear brother, Christ is all in all to meet them. Are you poor? He will make you rich in your poverty by His consoling presence. Are you sick? He will make your bed in your sickness, and so will make your sick-bed better than the walks of health. Are you persecuted? If it is for His sake, you may even leap for joy. Are you oppressed? Remember how He also was oppressed and afflicted; and you will have fellowship with Him in his sufferings.
Amidst all the vicissitudes of this present life, Christ is all that the believer needs to bear him up, and bear him through. No wave can sink the man who clings to this life-buoy; he shall swim to glory on it! Jesus is all I need!
the living water to quench my thirst,
the heavenly bread to satisfy my hunger,
the snow-white robe to cover me,
the sure refuge in times of trouble,
the happy home of my soul,
my food and my medicine,
my solace and my song,
my light and my delight.
The believer can say, “Christ is mine!” No emperor is half as rich as the beggar that has Christ! He who has Christ, being a pauper, has all things. And he who has not Christ, possessing a thousand worlds, possesses nothing for real happiness and joy!
Oh, the blessedness of the man who can say, “Christ is mine!”
Let the people renew their strength. – Isaiah 41:1
All things on earth need to be renewed. No created thing continues by itself. “Thou renewest the face of the year,” was the Psalmist’s utterance. Even the trees, which wear not themselves with care, nor shorten their lives with labor, must drink of the rain of heaven and suck from the hidden treasures of the soil. The cedars of Lebanon, which God has planted, only live because day by day they are full of sap fresh drawn from the earth.
Neither can man’s life be sustained without renewal from God. As it is necessary to repair the depletion of the body by the frequent meal, so we must repair the depletion of the soul by feeding upon the Book of God, or by listening to the preached Word, or by the soul-fattening table of the ordinances.
How depressed are our graces when means are neglected! What poor starvelings some saints are who live without the diligent use of the Word of God and secret prayer! If our piety can live without God it is not of divine creating; it is but a dream; for if God had begotten it, it would wait upon him as the flowers wait upon the dew.
Without constant restoration we are not ready for the perpetual assaults of hell, or the stern afflictions of heaven, or even for the strifes within. When the whirlwind shall be loosed, woe to the tree that hath not sucked up fresh sap, and grasped the rock with many intertwisted roots. When tempests arise, woe to the mariners that have not strengthened their mast, nor cast their anchor, nor sought the haven.
If we allow the good to grow weaker, the evil will surely gather strength and struggle desperately for the mastery over us; and so, perhaps, a painful desolation, and a lamentable disgrace may follow. Let us draw near to the footstool of divine mercy in humble entreaty, and we shall realize the fulfillment of the promise, “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.”