I want to say a brief and simple word, dear brethren, about the presence of the Lord. But, as in our reading, I am thinking more of the presence of the Lord with us when we are together: the presence of the Lord among His own, in His Church.
I have been thinking about the attributes of the Lord Jesus. And we often think of it in a personal way – what He is to me: Saviour, Friend; He is a King, too. All those are very blessed things. But I have been thinking lately of what He means to the Church, the assembly.
I wondered if, this afternoon, we could be occupied with the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. This is not an intellectual exercise. We have read quite a few Scriptures; we probably know these chapters, and others which refer to this subject, quite well; I would like us to see these from a very personal point of view. I believe that if we were to conclude this gathering with a real sense of knowledge about the Lord’s sufferings – what the Lord went through for each one of us – we would be drawn to Him in affection. He is the One Who suffered not only in obedience to God, but also on our behalf. If this causes us to draw close to the Lord Jesus afresh, then the exercise this afternoon will have been worthwhile.
Our objective this evening is to have a greater appreciation of the Lord Jesus as a Friend, the Friend of sinners, and I believe it would help us in our pathway here, to walk in a way that is pleasing to Him.
I just suggest these Scriptures, dear brethren, as presenting to us some of the glories of the Lord Jesus Christ, and desiring, as our brother said in prayer, that we might get some fresh views of Him and His Person and excellence. There is, of course, nothing new in Scripture; the Scripture is its own record, but we come back to it looking for what we might call fresh impressions of what the Scripture contains.
I would like to draw upon the Scriptures to turn rather more towards how the people of God may be preserved together, because there is a need for that, that we might be able to go on together in the things of the Lord, get the gain of fellowship in the things of the Lord, as sharing them, and make progress together so that there is a richer and sweeter response to God while we still remain here.
hese passages, on a first view, may not seem to belong together or have a similar thought, but I would like to present these passages as throwing light on the matter of prayer. Prayer can be seen in many ways. It is not just a prayer to do in the morning, or at night before going to sleep. Prayer is not only something to be seen from the viewpoint of man: prayer always has to be seen from the viewpoint of God. And so I would like to bring these passages before us concerning the matter of prayer.
Prayer should be a constant act in the life of a believer. I am sure – I can say it because I see my own failure – prayer is often put aside. It is a communication with our Lord and Saviour. Prayer is also a great part of worshipping, it is a great part of adoration. And so to go to Scripture, and to look what Scripture says about prayer, is a very precious thing. I was tested to bring that before you, before us all. I often say that it is important to know that what is preached and what is said is not only for those who hear, but also for the one who speaks, the one who preaches. I do not put myself outside this, or think that I fully understand this matter, or fully practise it in a right way: consideration of this is something that is helpful for us all.
I just had in my heart this matter of the day that we are in, and the need of standing.
The picture in Romans is that without Christ, outside of Christ, we are in the mud, we are in the mire, there is no standing, we cannot stand, we collapse, we fail, we fall back into sin, all the resolutions in the world do not work, all the willpower does not work, and we cannot stand. Mephibosheth could not stand – he was lame in both feet (2 Sam 9:13). And that is our position – we are unable to stand.
Now, that was not God’s purpose. And man is unique in that he stands! From all the animals, it is a distinguishing creatorial feature – standing. Why did God do that? Man is upright – man is standing. There is a glory connected with it. God is working to imprint His image and His likeness on man. We deal with a holy and upright God. And a God whose word stands whatever falls; His counsels stand, there is what is firm there – every blessing. And He would imbue that on the creature.
I was just impressed with the awesome wonder of the coming of the Holy Spirit. My father came from a sect of Russian pacifists, the Doukhobors, and as one of their practices they would bow to one another in recognition of the Holy Spirit in one another. That may be a bit over the top, but I like the idea. It is amazing to think that the Holy Spirit has come and is dwelling in the saints. Maybe we could just look at John 14 in this connection.
Then, thinking of the many effects of the Holy Spirit, here are two: sin is reproved, and Christ is exalted. And we get that in Acts 2.
The Incarnation of Christ is an awesome and wondrous fact, and a reality that we can never get enough of. But the coming of the Spirit is so wonderful, powerful, and has such implications, that I just felt, myself, the need to be expanded in the awesome wonder of His coming. So we have Christ here physically – and you can see Him, but only those who have faith really discern Who He is. Then we have the Spirit, and He is not seen – as it comes out in this section in John 14, we cannot see Him.
I want to say a further word about revival. Revival implies that there has been the evidence of life, but that something has happened, so that life has become dulled or stifled. We all know what it is to droop and to flag. The need is to know the secret of being revived. We have all seen the plant in the house; after many days of neglect the flowers begin to droop. Once it is attended to and given food and water, it springs to life again – it revives. That is so like you and me as believers in Christ. If we stray from the source of our sustenance, we begin to droop. How important it is to get back to that source and to be revived!
In these Scriptures I have read, we have the personal service of the Lord Jesus seen in reviving and restoring the soul. Reviving, like the feeding, like the leading, like the anointing in this psalm, is the continuous service of the Shepherd towards His own. As believers, during our whole life, we need times of reviving, and times of restoring. The Shepherd is the key to that revival each day of our lives.