A DEAR friend wrote to me a few days ago, asking me to send her a motto for the new year. The moment I read the request, these words came with blessed power to my heart--"As he is, so are we in this world."
We know that in ourselves we are poor sinful worms of the earth. We know that in our flesh dwelleth "no good thing." But are we to be daily and hourly contemplating ourselves after our natural condition? Is it not rather our privilege, if we have the witness of the Spirit in our hearts that we are born again from above, if we know that we are not dead in sin, but that we are made alive in Christ Jesus; I say, if we know these things, is it not our privilege to be looking at ourselves in the glorious mirror of the Gospel, admiring the glory and perfection which our covenant God and Father hath put upon us in Christ Jesus? As I was turning these things over in my mind, I felt that we could not have a more blessed motto for the new year than the words I have taken for my text.
Dear brother, if you are really a child of God, you are not a thing of time, but you are a thing of eternity. What has time to do with that boundless existence which Jehovah has given us as we stand in union to our most glorious Christ? Truly it is as nothing! The longest life that any man ever lived upon the earth is but as a little tale that is told. It is "this light affliction which is but for a moment." (2 Cor. 4:17) The Lord help us, then, to be contemplating ourselves as "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ." (Rom. 8:17)
If a man is heir to a great estate, what matters it though he be a poor bankrupt in himself? If one were to speak to him about his bankrupt condition, what would he say? Wait until a little more of my life has rolled over, until I become of age, then come and ask me if I am a bankrupt, and I will show you that I possess the widest estates and the most wonderful property. When the Prince of Wales became of age, he was put in possession of all that was kept in reserve for him during his nonage. Would it have been suitable for the prince, if he had been constantly weeping and mourning all that time because he was not of age, and could not enjoy his possessions? Dear brother, it is but a few moments longer, and we shall enter upon the full enjoyment of all that is laid up for us in the person of our most glorious Christ. It is as the Lord the Spirit is our blessed remembrancer that we are enabled to view these things rightly. It is our forgetfulness of the precious truths he has revealed to us that makes us so miserable. If we could ever bear in mind our motto, "As he is, so are we in this world," it would bring up our noble minds to the apprehension of the blessedness we possess in Christ Jesus.
"But," says some poor, troubled child of God, "my mind seems to be daily overwhelmed with sorrow. I am so crushed down under the pressure of trouble, either personal or relative, that I seem to have no time to think about these great and glorious things." But these are the very things that will bring the child of God to dwell on the future rather than on the present. What says the prophet Micah, in the second chapter, tenth verse?--"Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted." And well does the child of God know it. He knows he can find no rest or refreshing in earthly things: all his expectations are from "Jesus only." And "the expectation of the righteous shall not be cut off;" for it is impossible for the Lord to change his mind. He has given us his only begotten Son, and has "blessed us with all spiritual blessings" in him; and it only remains for us to be taken into the full possession and enjoyment of all that is reserved for us in him, our glorious Head.
If we turn back a little into this blessed book, we shall see to whom all this belongs. "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1) Then it belongs to little children, to new-born babes, as he tells us in the 12th verse of this chapter--"I write unto you, little children." It is to the little, little children. Then you cannot be too small in your own estimation to come in here. "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake." Again, in the next verse--"I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father."
How sweet is it! If we have known Christ in the outgoing of desire after him; if we have known him as the Spirit of life; if we have known him as the water of life; if he has manifested himself in us as a "well of water springing up into everlasting life," in a thousand breathings of desire after growth in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, then we have "known the Father." This is what Philip desired, when he said, "Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" (John 14:8,9) For he was "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person." (Heb. 1:3) "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (Col. 2:9) Then, I write unto you, little trembling children, because ye have known the Father."
It is a very blessed thing to be able to take up the language of John with which he closes his epistle: "And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true." (1 John 5:20) This verse comes down to the very lowest among the little ones in God's family. Can you not say you know that the Son of God is come? Has he not given you an understanding to know him that is true?
Well, say you, "I think I do know Christ, inasmuch as he is my only hope, my only expectation." Then he has given you "an understanding to know him that is true, and we are in him that is true." Christ gives nothing out of himself; it is "of his fulness [not out of his fullness] we receive, and grace for grace." (John 1:16) "And we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life."
Moreover, if we look at the 20th verse of the 2nd chapter, we shall see that there is another sweet feature, with reference to those persons who may venture to claim this blessed condition: "As he is, so are we in this world:" "But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." (1 John 2:20)
"Well," say you, "my knowledge seems to be very small." Still you know all about the mystery. You know a little of what the apostle says again, enlarging upon the same blessed subject in the 2nd chapter, 27th verse: "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."
Now, this is God's declaration with reference to the standing of the child of God--of one who feels he has no refuge but in Christ: "As it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." It is not a glory that shall fade away. No. "I give unto my sheep ETERNAL LIFE," says Christ, "and no man shall pluck them out of my hand." And this life gathers us up into union with Christ. It could not be eternal life if it could perish; and this is the glory of it--"Ye shall abide in him." We have it again blessedly in the 3rd chapter, 1st verse: "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us." Upon whom? Upon those who have had an unction from the Holy One; those who know what it is to be lifted out of themselves; those poor and needy ones, who know that they have nothing in themselves, and are saying,
"Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on thee."
It is those who are privileged to take up our motto, and to rejoice in the blessedness, that "as he is, so are we in this world." "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.
"Well," say you, "I often think about it, but when I am beginning to realize it a little, the enemy comes in like a flood, and says, 'Can you believe it possible that you, who are so full of worldliness and vanity--you, who are such a poor, ignorant creature--can be taken into the family of God, and be called a child of God, an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ, of the eternal inheritance?'" Dear brother, when the enemy comes in thus, tell him to go to your glorious elder brother, and ask him who it is he receives into his family. He will turn round, and say, "Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye that mourn, for ye shall be comforted. Blessed are ye that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for ye shall be filled."
It is a blessed thing to be brought thus to see ourselves abject poverty and nothingness, and "Christ all and in all." But in the midst of all, we cannot but wonder at the great grace and infinite love of our covenant God and Father towards us: "Behold, what manner of love." There is nothing that can describe the glory of that love, the infinite height of its blessedness, the depth of its mercy, and the length and breadth of its glory. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we poor worms of the earth should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it know him not."
The worldly professor knows nothing about these things. He is contented with the mere shell of religion,--with a mere external religion. Not so the living child of God. He is not contented to have the doctrine only in his head, but he must have it burnt into his heart. "Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not." The world saw no comeliness in Christ. They knew him not in the glory of his person; "for had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Cor. 2:8)
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." There is no appearance now of what we shall be by and by. You would not suppose, when you look at the chrysalis in the winter, that it contained such a beautiful thing as it appears in the spring. So, though "it doth not yet appear what we shall be, we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him," in all his infinite beauty and perfection. The Father ever beholds the Church thus now; for, "Behold, now are we the sons of God." Paul was brought, by the blessed teaching and ministry of the Spirit of God, to stand thus upon the pinnacle of glory, viewing himself as a new creature in Christ Jesus; rejoicing in the knowledge, that as he is, so are we, even now, in this world. The Lord help you to see yourself in Christ today, dear child of God; then seeing yourself thus in his beauty and perfection, you will not wonder for a moment why it is that Jehovah the Father delights to call you his own dear child; and that he has said so sweetly, "They shall be my people, and I will be their God." (Jer. 24:7) No dear brother, we cannot wonder at it when we look at these things rightly; looking away from ourselves, to all that is glorious in our great and exalted Head and Husband Jesus Christ.
Again, there is another feature given us in the 3rd chapter, from the 22nd to the 24th verse. "And whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight."
"Well," say you, "this seems to cut me off altogether; for instead of keeping his commandments, I am continually breaking them, and I can scarcely believe that such a worldly-minded creature as I feel myself to be can have an interest in such glorious things." But we must look a little, dear brother, at what his commandments are. "And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment." In the first place, do you truly love the children of God? And is it because you see the image of Christ in them that you do love them? "Yes," say you. Then, do you not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? "Ah!" say you,
"Could I but believe,
All things would easy be."
There never was a poor sinner who from his heart said this but was a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not believing that you are a believer that makes you such; but it is simply believing in him as your only Saviour, your only refuge; feeling that without him you can do nothing. It is believing that he is to his children--poor worms of the earth as they are--all that he declares himself to be.
"Well," say you, "I can believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as I look at the whole Church, and see the sin of the body put away by the sacrifice of himself. I believe in him with all my heart in this way; but what I want is to feel the sweet power and anointing that comes with the faith, that I might be able to realize my own interest in him; then I should believe that I was a true believer."
Well, dear child of God, you must wait for that. But the Lord help you to believe in the dark as well as in the light. It is only by degrees that we are brought up to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and to love one another, as he gave us commandment. "And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him." (1 John 3:24) Here is the indwelling of the Spirit, whereby we are instructed into the simplicity of keeping his commandments. And here is also the dwelling of the Church in Christ. As Christ himself sweetly tells us in the 17th chapter of John, "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." This is to be in a position to take up the text, and to rejoice in the mercy, that "as he is, so are we in this world." If we are thus dwelling in him, and he in us, then "all are ours, we are Christ's, and Christ is God's." "And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us."
What was it, dear child of God, that made you long, on entering upon a new year, for a sweet manifestation of Christ to your soul? What was it that made you think, How often shall I hear his voice during this year? What was it that made your heart go out thus, in earnest desire and longing that it might be a blessed year of memorial to your soul? It was the Spirit that he hath given you--this new spirit, this new life which you have as a new creature in Christ Jesus; for "old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor. 5:17)
"Well," say you, "I can go with you as far as that. I know my desire has been going out, that he would manifest himself unto me otherwise than he does unto the world, that I might be able to hang upon the Lord in all afflictions, and to receive all he sends me of trouble and exercise, believing that 'all things shall work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.'" (Rom. 8:28) Well, then, all this arises from the spirit which he hath given you. If the spirit which he hath given you has been going out thus in desire after growth in grace, and in the knowledge of your own personal interest in Christ, I would say to you this morning, ALL HAIL! you bear the true marks of a living child of God; therefore, "As he is, so are you in this world."
But we have another feature in the beginning of the fourth chapter of this epistle. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God."
Now there is something more here than meets the eye at first. It is not the mere outward confession that Christ is come, but it is receiving the blessed truth into the heart. It is not a Christ of our own making. It is not a Christ that we believe in, in a mere natural way, but it is the CHRIST OF GOD. "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God." That is, that Jesus Christ, the covenant head of his covenant body, came forth as the Husband of his body--his Bride, and redeemed her from death; that he came to save her from her sins, and that he might "present her unto himself without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." (Eph. 5:27)
None but the living children of God really receive the Christ of God. Others may believe in a Christ of some sort, but they despise the Christ who is the head of his one body, the Husband of his Bride.
There are many who believe in a universal Christ, and you will hear them say, "Oh! Christ came as the Saviour of the world." But the child of God tries the spirits whether they are of God. He knows, as the Lord the Spirit opens his heart, that it is the Christ of God that is the only head of his one body, and not of the whole world. "He hath chosen us out of the world," (John 15:19) according to the covenant purpose of our covenant God and Father; for "whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." (Rom. 8:29)
It was for those, and those only who were thus foreknown, that Christ came in the flesh. It was for those that he accomplished all that was great and glorious in the work of redemption. It is such that "try the spirits." They cannot be contented with the mere husk of profession. They cannot be contented with a universal Christ, but they must have the CHRIST OF GOD. They must be able to call him their own Christ, believing that they are among those whom he has redeemed from among men. They "try the spirits," because there are "many false prophets that are gone out into the world;" and these will not satisfy "the Bride, the Lamb's wife." She must have the Christ of God, who has accomplished all on her behalf; who has brought her up out of all that she is in the creature, and made her eternally glorious in himself, perfect in his perfection, "complete in him." (Col. 2:10) And who will present her at last without spot before God.
We drop down now to the 15th verse of the 4th chapter, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." It is not the mere confession of the lip, but it is the living power that is put into the heart of the child of God at his regeneration. "And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us."
It opened to my heart very blessedly, as I was thinking of the motto for the new year, that it does not cut off the poor trembler; for we have known: as I was contemplating it, there was an emphasis upon the word have. Though we may not be able to lay hold of it now, yet we can look back to many blessed moments when "we have known and believed the love that God hath to us." You may be feeling dark this morning; you may not be able to say now that you know and believe the love that God hath to you. But can you not look back to some of your Bethels and Peniels, when you have been able to say this? We should be having a heaven upon earth, if we were always living in the sweet enjoyment of the love of God; but we are not to expect our heaven here. That we are not always living thus alters nothing of the reality of it; for we know that, as God is infinite love, he is infinite love to his people,--to those who are able to say, "We have known and believed the love that God hath to us." "God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."
Are you not dwelling in him in desire, dear brother, and in earnest longings to know more of him? Where is your heart this morning? Is it not with your treasure? Your treasure is in heaven; and is not your heart ever ascending to the very bosom of Jesus? There is not a desire that ascends out of your heart, but it reaches its destination. The Lord treasures up those desires; for they are all from himself.
"These feeble desires, these wishes so weak,
'Tis Jesus inspires, and bids you still seek."
But my time tells me that I must stop, or I should like to have contemplated a little more the glorious fact, that "as he is, so are we in this world," and the blessed result of a knowledge of it brought home to the heart. And what is the result? It will give us boldness at a throne of grace now, and also in the day of judgment, when "we shall see him as he is," and be for ever like him. We shall then have no more fear--as we stand in this beauty and perfection--than Eve had when she saw her Adam. Love to her husband overwhelmed all other feelings. It was "perfect love, that cast our fear." So will it be with the child of God. When he is called out of his grave, and presented before God in the day of judgment, there will be nothing but perfect love, which will drive out all fear. We shall then see ourselves eternally innocent, eternally perfect, eternally glorious!
The Lord help us, then, to rejoice in our blessed motto--"AS HE IS, SO ARE WE IN THIS WORLD."