Lord‚Äôs Day 4, 2011
I was glad when they said to me, ‚ÄúLet us go to the house of the Lord.‚Äù
May thy Spirit speak in me that I may
speak to thee.
I have no merit, let the merit of Jesus stand for me.
I am undeserving, but I look to thy tender mercy.
I am full of infirmities, wants, sin;
thou art full of grace.
I confess my sin, my frequent sin, my wilful sin;
All my powers of body and soul are defiled;
A fountain of pollution is deep within my nature.
There are chambers of foul images within my being;
I have gone from one odious room to another,
walked in a no-man‚Äôs-land of dangerous
pried into the secrets of my fallen nature.
I am utterly ashamed that I am what I am in myself;
I have no green shoot in me nor fruit, but thorns
I am a fading leaf that the wind drives away;
I live bare and barren as a winter tree,
unprofitable, fit to be hewn down and burnt.
Lord, dost thou have mercy on me?
Thou hast struck a heavy blow at my pride,
at the false god of self,
and I lie in pieces before thee.
But thou hast given me another Master and Lord,
thy Son, Jesus,
and now my heart is turned towards holiness,
my life speeds as an arrow from a bow
towards complete obedience to thee.
Help me in all my doings to put down sin
and to humble pride.
Save me from the love of the world and the pride
from everything that is natural to fallen man,
and let Christ’s nature be seen in me day by day.
Grant me grace to bear Thy will without repining,
and delight to be
not only chiselled, squared, or fashioned,
but separated from the old rock where I have
been embedded so long,
and lifted from the quarry to the upper air,
where I may be built in Christ for ever.
‚ÄîThe Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennett, editor (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002).
The Gospel According to John
17 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‚ÄúFather, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. 3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
6 ‚ÄúI have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.
These verses begin one of the most wonderful chapters in the Bible. It is a chapter in which we see our Lord Jesus Christ addressing a long prayer to God the Father. It is wonderful as a specimen of the communion that was ever kept up between the Father and the Son, during the period of the Son‚Äôs ministry on earth.‚ÄîIt is wonderful as a pattern of the intercession which the Son, as an High Priest, is ever carrying on for us in heaven.‚ÄìNot least it is wonderful as an example of the sort of things that believers should mention in prayer. What Christ asks for His people, His people should ask for themselves. It has been well and truly said by an old divine, that ‚Äúthe best and fullest sermon ever preached was followed by the best of prayers.‚Äù
It is needless to say that the chapter before us contains many deep things. It could hardly be otherwise. He that reads the words spoken by one Person of the blessed Trinity to another Person, by the Son to the Father, must surely be prepared to find much that he cannot fully understand, much that he has no line to fathom. There are sentences, words, and expressions, in the twenty-six verses of this chapter, which no one probably has ever unfolded completely. We have not minds to do it, or to understand the matters it contains, if we could. But there are great truths in the chapter which stand out clearly and plainly on its face, and to these truths we shall do well to direct our best attention.
We should notice, firstly, in these verses, what a glorious account they contain of our Lord Jesus Christ‚Äôs office and dignity. We read that the Father has ‚Äúgiven Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life.‚Äù The keys of heaven are in Christ‚Äôs hands. The salvation of every soul of mankind is at His disposal.‚ÄîWe read, furthermore, that ‚Äúit is life eternal to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.‚Äù The mere knowledge of God is not sufficient, and saves none. We must know the Son as well as the Father. God known without Christ, is a Being whom we can only fear, and dare not approach. It is ‚ÄúGod in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself,‚Äù who alone can give to the soul life and peace.‚ÄîWe read, furthermore, that Christ ‚Äúhas finished the work which the Father gave Him to do.‚Äù He has finished the work of redemption, and wrought out a perfect righteousness for His people. Unlike the first Adam, who failed to do God‚Äôs will and brought sin into the world, the second Adam has done all, and left nothing undone that He came to do.‚ÄîFinally, we read that Christ ‚Äúhad glory with the Father before the world was.‚Äù Unlike Moses and David, He existed from all eternity, long before He came into the world; and He shared glory with the Father, before He was made flesh and born of the Virgin Mary.
Each of these marvelous sayings contains matter which our weak minds have not power fully to comprehend. We must be content to admire and reverence what we cannot thoroughly grasp and explain. But one thing is abundantly clear: sayings like these can only be used of one who is very God. To no patriarch, or prophet, or king, or apostle, is any such language ever applied in the Bible. It belongs to none but God.
Forever let us thank God that the hope of a Christian rests on such a solid foundation as a Divine Saviour. He to whom we are commanded to flee for pardon, and in whom we are bid to rest for peace, is God as well as man. To all who really think about their souls, and are not careless and worldly, the thought is full of comfort. Such people know and feel that great sinners need a great Saviour, and that no mere human redeemer would meet their needs. Then let them rejoice in Christ, and lean back confidently on Him. Christ has all power, and is able to save to the uttermost, because Christ is divine. Office, power, and pre-existence, all combine to prove that He is God.
We should notice, secondly, in these verses, what a gracious account they contain of our Lord Jesus Christ‚Äôs disciples. We find our Lord Himself saying of them, ‚ÄúThey have kept Thy Word,‚Äîthey have known that all things Thou hast given Me are of Thee,‚Äîthey have received Thy words,‚Äîthey have known surely that I came out from Thee,‚Äîthey have believed that Thou didst send Me.‚Äù
These are wonderful words when we consider the character of the eleven men to whom they were applied. How weak was their faith! How slender their knowledge! How shallow their spiritual attainments! How faint their hearts in the hour of danger! Yet a very little time after Jesus spoke these words they all forsook Him and fled, and one of them denied Him three times with an oath. No one, in short, can read the four Gospels with attention, and fail to see that never had a great master such weak servants as Jesus had in the eleven apostles. Yet these very weak servants were the men of whom the gracious Head of the Church speaks here in high and honorable terms.
The lesson before us is full of comfort and instruction. It is evident that Jesus sees far more in His believing people than they see in themselves, or than others see in them. The least degree of faith is very precious in His sight. Though it be no bigger than a grain of mustard seed, it is a plant of heavenly growth, and makes a boundless difference between the possessor of it and the man of the world. Wherever the gracious Saviour of sinners sees true faith in Himself, however feeble, He looks with compassion on many infirmities, and passes by many defects. It was even so with the eleven apostles. They were weak and unstable as water; but they believed and loved their Master when millions refused to own Him. And the language of Him who declared that a cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple should not lose its reward, shows clearly that their loyalty was not forgotten.
The true servant of God should mark well the feature in Christ‚Äôs character which is here brought out, and rest his soul upon it. The best among us must often see in himself a vast amount of defects and infirmities, and must feel ashamed of his poor attainments in religion. But do we simply believe in Jesus? Do we cling to Him, and roll all our burdens on Him? Can we say with sincerity and truth, as Peter said afterwards, ‚ÄúLord, Thou knowest all things: Thou knowest that I love Thee‚Äù? Then let us take comfort in the words of Christ before us, and not give way to despondency. The Lord Jesus did not despise the eleven because of their feebleness, but bore with them and saved them to the end, because they believed. And He never changes. What He did for them, He will do for us.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.