Christ or the World
It is undeniable that this day is one of sorrow to any heart that is true to Christ. Around us in the world we can see hostile forces deploying with energy and vigour. We find man’s will rampant, sin gloried in and truth trampled in the street. How much Satan seems to be master of the field! Yet in whatever way these external causes work together to unsettle us, it is clear that the real grief comes from a lukewarm Church rather than from the world. What do I mean by this? I mean a Church that thinks she has much, while in reality she has little. Why? Because she has so little of Christ!
Nothing is more remarkable than the striking contrast between the phraseology and the practical position and walk of saints today. There is much “with word” and “with tongue”, but very little “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3: 18). What a solemn picture is presented when profession and practice are placed side by side! With so much information on the Scriptures being readily available, the unfortunate tendency is to adopt an advanced form of expression of the truth without the corresponding practical walk. Thus there never was a time when unknown and unfelt truth was more traded upon than now. The sin of the day is that those who profess the name of the Lord are not formed by that which comes so smoothly from their tongues—they “say and do not” (Matt 23: 3). Thus you will find solemn subjects such as the coming of the Lord upheld and preached by those whose course down here is practically unaffected by them. Their worldly condition merely tells how easy it is merely to profess truth in these times. It is not truth in power, it is not truth learned from God. This is very solemn. To have any value, truth must be held in reality—and a matter like the coming of the Lord can never be a living hope before any heart that does not feel the absence of Christ here. Indeed, all of us would have to admit how feebly His own blessed words have seized our affections: “I sanctify myself for them” (John 17: 19)—as if the Lord had said, ‘I set myself apart from this scene so that I may detach you from it’. It is impossible to enter into the truth of this in a vital way and be worldly.
Sadly, there has been so little presenting of Christ in the Gospel that souls have lost the sense of the Person in the overwhelming importance which has been attached to the benefit derived from Him. In a word, modern evangelisation largely consists in preaching salvation rather than Christ. The sinner occupies centre stage and not the Saviour—this world is presented as the place where the believer can be enabled to live life to the full rather than where Christ was cast out, and heaven as the place where the believer’s happiness will continue, rather than where Christ now is. The end result is feebleness in the heart and affections as to the Person and low thoughts of what is due to Him while we are left here below. These things being so, is it really surprising that other objects have taken Christ’s place in the hearts of His saved people? Getting on in this world (as men speak), and living for pleasure and the interests of self and family have flourished at the expense of devotion to Christ Himself. His absence from this scene is not felt, and consequently His corning again is but a poor, cold doctrine, not a reality in the heart. When you turn to the Thessalonian saints, what a contrast! Paul writes that they had “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to await his Son from the heavens” (1 Thess. 1: 9, 10). The proof of this was in that they not only “became models to all that believe” but that their faith towards God had “gone abroad”—so much that Paul had “no need to say anything” (vs 7, 8). Could this be written of any company of Christians today? I doubt it. You only have to converse with many of the Lord’s people on the subject of life and death to see that the absence of Christ features little in their thinking. They are grieved when death comes to them (or their loved ones), not because the Lord has not come in their lifetime, but because it is always before the time as they would see it. God’s will is only grudgingly acknowledged because they were happy here. They were not really looking for Christ to come. What a contrast with Paul, the model believer (see 1 Cor. 11: 1; Phil. 3: 17)! The apostle did not consider his life here as dear to himself as these do (see Acts 20: 24), for he desired to depart and be with Christ (see Phil. 1: 23). If he was to remain at all, it was to live for Christ (see v21). Many Christians today secretly regard this as fanaticism (or, certainly ‘not for them’), because, unlike the apostle, they “live to themselves” (2 Cor. 5: 15). They might deny it, but their lives speak otherwise. Such know little of the practical force of what it means to be “strangers and sojourners” (Heb. 11: 13). Like Lot, they are thoroughly settled here, and like Lot, they do not want to leave (see Gen. 19: 16).
The key to the Church’s position as here in this world is the Lord’s rejection. In simple terms, this means that if Christ was refused here, then neither can His people seek acceptance here. It is impossible to be truly in the Christian pathway if this is not understood. Even the name Church is a witness to this, for in Greek it is an ekklesia,, or called–out company. How extraordinary then to find Christians setting up what they call community churches—which, by definition, are not only to be embedded in the world, but seek to import worldly practices into the Church to attract ‘converts’! What place have worldly principles of success in the Church? None. The wisdom of the world has nothing to say to the things of God: it does not know God (see 1 Cor. 1: 21), and it is the very same wisdom that crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2: 6–8). These things may seem obvious, but how can we expect believers who are thoroughly settled in the world that rejected Christ to understand this—to have any true conception of what the Church is to be to Christ? The more I read my Bible, the more I see that there is a state of soul which is capable of entering into God’s mind and thoughts, and a state or condition to which God will communicate His mind. I also see that the contrary is true, namely, that there is a condition incapable of grasping the mind of God and to which He does not communicate His thoughts. Sad that the latter could ever be true of a saint of God! We see this principle typified in Lev. 10: 8–10: “and Jehovah spoke to Aaron, saying, Thou shalt not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, and thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tent of meeting, lest ye die—[it is] an everlasting statute throughout your generations, that ye may put difference between the holy and the unholy, and between unclean and clean”. Thus in the same way that a priest intoxicated by alcohol would have no sense of what is due to God, neither can a Christian who is under the influence of the world. That is why you will find that it is those Christians who never really made a clean break with the world that are unable to see what is suited to God and what is not, and who lower the standard of divine purity and holiness down to the level of what is around us. Sadly, others get caught up in the vortex of the same downward current and thus almost everywhere we see people building again the things that they had once thrown down, and jettisoning principles they once held to be vital. All this is accompanied by a loud and pretentious profession of ‘love’ and ‘tolerance’ in flagrant contradiction of the divine instruction that “hereby know we that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments” (1 John 5: 2, my emphasis) and “he that loves his brother abides in light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him” (1 John 2: 10, my emphasis).
So what is the remedy to all this failure and sorrow? In a word—Christ. What is wanted in souls is a more whole–hearted surrender of everything to Christ—an appreciation and love for Him beyond all else. How blessed when the one object that fills the heart, occupies the soul and commands the affections is the Lord Himself! In the type, nothing can fill the blank in Mephibosheth’s heart that David’s absence creates, and therefore he deports himself in a manner that is consistent with his sorrow and sense of loss. But when David returns, the king and the king alone fills the blank in Mephibosheth’s heart. “Thou and Ziba divide the land” (2 Sam. 19: 29) was the word from David. Mephibosheth’s reply was “let him even take all, since my lord the king is come again in peace to his own house” (v30). Mephibosheth wants no more than David, but he can do with no less. As we have said, one object satisfies his heart, and one object commands his affections. Reader, pause and ponder these things—for all eternity will not supply this little moment, this hour of Christ’s rejection. Once it is passed, it is passed forever, along with the opportunity to be a true servant of the Master. Let us see to it therefore, that while He is absent we are found here as those who have kept His word, not denied His name, and kept the word of His patience (see Rev. 3: 8, 10). God give His beloved people, in these last times, to be more whole–hearted, uncompromising, and devoted to His blessed Son Jesus Christ our Lord!