|The Surrendered Life
|The Yielded Life
|The Believer's Gift to God
1. The Surrendered Life.
At no period in the last century of the history of God's people has there been more emphasis placed upon the Christian life and walk than at the present. For long years the hearts of God's true children have longed for the fullest, richest, closest spiritual life attainable in Christ Jesus. That there was such a deeper, higher, broader life in Christ than the lives of many of His children were exemplifying, was admitted by all. The Word of God promised it; the lives of the early disciples were resplendent with its glory; the hearts of God's devout children clung to it with pathetic persistence. That self-same tenaciousness of faith in the possibility of such a fullness of Christian experience was the Spirit-born and Spirit-fed proof of its existence. Men's hearts would not yield their faith in its existence because the Spirit who dwelt within them would not suffer such faith to perish. Seeing then that he could not banish the vision of the glory-crowned peak, the arch-adversary sought to becloud the pathway to it. Knowing that they would not surrender their faith in the distant haven he essayed to confuse, by a maze of misleading lines, the chart that guided weary seekers to it. As for a thousand years he had blinded the way to the heart-resting peace with God, so now he diligently set himself to darken the path to the heart-keeping peace of God. Error and false teaching of divers and manifold forms swarmed to the becloudment. Perfectionism; sanctification of the flesh; eradication of inbred sin from that in which a holy God declares there "dwelleth no good thing;" holiness teaching with much of truth, yet such serious error in the ignoring and wresting of God's word as has led to pitiable disappointment, and spiritual disaster;—all these have hung about the true pathway to fullness of life in Christ, as the mist and mirage beset the toiling traveler eager to reach his journey's end.
All the while the Spirit knew this pathway. All through these weary years of gloom and error this truth was flooded with the light of an errorless simplicity in the mind of the Spirit: all this time it was already revealed in His Word. While men wandered in the labyrinth of their own dogmas: while they encrusted the truth with the cheap gloss of their own human opinions, He could not make plain to them what was so clear to Him. But as soon as they began to give to His naked Word that place of supreme authority they had been all unconsciously awarding to creeds, and to man-made comments upon that Word, the true light began to burst forth. So it is through the earnest, searching, trustful study of that Word to-day that, out from the error, ignorance, and false teaching of the century is emerging, in all its glory and preciousness, the truth which lets us into the secret of a full and triumphant life in Christ Jesus.
The body of the believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit, Who comes in at conversion to abide forever. To walk in the Spirit, instead of walking in the flesh as he has hitherto done, is the whole secret of the believer's life of power, privilege and peace. To thus walk in the spirit the first essential is the absolute yielding to God of the life which the believer has hitherto himself controlled and directed.
These great truths are clearly set forth in God's Word, and nowhere more clearly than in the writings of the great apostle. As we walk in the Spirit we shall not sin (Gal. 5:16): as we walk in the Spirit we mortify the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13): as we walk in the Spirit His law makes us free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2): as we walk in the Spirit we show ourselves to be true Sons of God (Rom. 8:14): as we walk in the Spirit we are freed from the bondage of the law (Gal. 5:18): as we walk in the Spirit we are made like unto Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), and the image of His glorious life is reproduced in all its features of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, etc. (Gal. 5:2). In short he who has learned to walk in the Spirit walks in God, instead of in Self; for him to live is CHRIST. What higher summit than this is there in the Christian experience?
Surrender Needful That God My Have His Way With Us.
But how can that Spirit lead, purify, transform, fill, and use a life unless it is yielded to Him? What can the potter do with the unyielded clay? How can God fashion the unyielded life? If every idol He shatters is secretly mourned: if every chastening stroke is bitterly denounced: if every higher purpose is resisted by a hostile will, how can He mould, and transform, and bless? Surely the ship which God is not piloting is destined to disastrous wreck: surely the harp which God does not attune will ever be a jangle of discordant notes to His listening ear. If we would have them restored to their perfection, we yield our disordered time-piece to the watchmaker: our costly gem with its broken setting to the jeweler: our wounded, bleeding limb to the hand of the surgeon. Can we do less toward God with the priceless treasure of life if we would have it meet our highest aspiration? Wherefore the Word of God calls upon us again and again to yield, yield, YIELD ourselves to God (Rom. 6:13, 16, 19) if we would have His Spirit hold full sway in our lives. He will not compel such surrender. He wants consecration, not coercion. But His fullest purpose of grace, blessing, and ministry is simply baffled in the life which will not yield to Him.
Nothing is more striking in Christ's earthly life than this attitude of absolute submission to the Father: "Lo, I come to do Thy will" was the complete expression of His early life and ministry. He came, as He says, not to do His own will: not to speak His own words: not to seek His own glory: not to teach His own doctrines. In all these He repeatedly emphasized His entire submission to the Father, His entire effacement of self in the conduct and shaping of His own earthly career. Now the servant is not greater than his Lord: as the Father sent Him, even so has He sent us into the world. He, as the Son of God, did this for an ensample to us who are sons. Wherefore if He, the sinless, spotless Son of God, needed to yield His earthly life wholly to the Father, how much more do we? Almost every page of God's Word calls us to follow in his footsteps. But where is there one which exempts us? Every consideration of obedience, of fullness of blessing, of closeness of walk with God, of glorification of His name, and of successful service and fruit-bearing for Him, calls us to follow Christ's example and yield ourselves unreservedly to God, to do His will and not our own. Many who are saved are not servants. They rejoice in salvation, but shirk from discipleship. They covet the crown, but shun the yoke. "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). "He died...that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them" (2 Cor. 5:15). They see in this first text Christ's purpose to save sinners, but they do not see in this second Christ's purpose in saving. They do not see that He died not only to save the life, but use the life after it is saved. He died not only to bring men into the Kingdom, but to make them servants of the King. He wants not only saved sinners, but surrendered saints.
Perhaps the most astonishing fact of the religious life of to-day is the number of men and women, who, thus saved by Christ, are yet unwilling to yield to Christ; and to live no longer unto themselves, but "unto Him." Let this test be applied to the average gathering of Christian men and women, and mark the result. Marvelous indeed is it to see that the ratio of God's children who joyfully and whole-heartedly respond to it is often as small as that of the unsaved who respond to the appeal of the gospel of salvation. What distrust in the Christ of Love! What a revelation of the kingship of Self in our lives! What a cheapening of His sacrifice for us that the vision of it instead of impelling us to cast ourselves, our all, at His feet, barely stirs us to reluctant and stinted gifts from our abundance! Verily, no truth of God's Word has suffered more at the hands of His children than this of His call to the yielding of the life: none has oftener been wounded in the house of its friends. It has suffered in the frequent woeful failure of God's messengers to bring it home tenderly to the lives of all His children; in the sad and repeated failure to respond when it is brought home; and in the every day handling of the truth of consecration with a flippancy which has made it only a high sounding phrase and the consecration meeting often a shallow mockery. Yet it stands as the supreme act in the believer's life: the threshold of blessing and successful service.
For the first great step of the walk in the Spirit is that yielding of the life which puts us under the control of that Spirit. Without this we may, and do have times of blessing, in so far as we trust and obey God in the acts of our daily life, and thus carry out the principle of obedience involved in surrender. But it is only through this that our whole life can be brought into that perfect alignment with God's will for us which makes not only isolated acts, but, the whole course of our life, always well pleasing unto Him, and a constant joy to ourselves. Myriads of God's children are thus doing acts which please the Father, and finding joy and gladness therein, walk happily with Him while His plans are well pleasing to them. But when it comes to walking with Him in the dark, and bearing and doing things which their own wills would have otherwise, they break down at the point of greatest weakness, a point of some secret cherished reservation to the whole will of God. It is just here that a definite act of surrender to God in blank is of such value. For it is a yielding of the life to do and suffer all His will, in all things and at all times, because we have, once for all, settled that it is the best thing for us. Wondrously steady under chastening and affliction does it make our life, to have it thus placed wholly and confidingly in His loving grasp. Then, when the hour comes to walk with God in the twilight of a simple, naked faith, while He works in ways that seem hard and strange, we follow Him as trustfully in the night of faith as in the full noontide of sight. We look back and remember the transaction by which we handed all things over to Him; we recall His faithfulness, and power to guard all that is committed to Him; we remind ourselves of His deathless love for His children; and we quietly leave our life where we once, and forever, placed it, confident that the hands that bled to save it, are the safest hands to keep it.
"Yield yourselves unto God"—Romans 6:13.
"Present your bodies...unto God."—Romans 12:1.
"They...first gave their own selves to the Lord."—2 Corinthians 8:5.
"That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God."—1 Peter 4:2.
What is the Surrendered Life? Or, rather, what is the act of surrender which opens the portals of the life of surrender, of consecration to God? The Scriptures quoted at the head of this article clearly and explicitly answer this query. Surrender, or consecration, is the voluntary offering of ourselves unto God to do His will instead of our own. Mark the terms, for each is significant, and all are simply gathered from the body of the texts quoted. A voluntary offering; ("yield": "present": "gave"); of ourselves ("yourselves": "your bodies": "their own selves") unto God; ("unto God": "unto the Lord") "to do His will, instead of our own." 1 Peter 4:2. It is thus:
I. AN OFFERING.
The word consecrate means "to fill the hand." Just as the Jewish worshipper fills his hand with the best, richest, and choicest of his own, and brought it as an offering to the Lord, so is the redeemed child of God to offer himself to God as the highest expression of grateful worship he can possibly make to the Lord who has redeemed him.
In the bygone days, when men were sold as chattels, a trembling slave stood upon the auction block awaiting the result of the last bid which was to separate him from wife, children, and all that was dear to him in his life of bondage on the old plantation. Higher and higher rose the bidding until at last it ceased, and the hammer of the auctioneer fell. A gentleman stepped up to the fettered slave and quickly said: "My man, I have bought you." "Yes, massa," was the subdued response. "I have bought you at a great price." The bondman nodded a tearful assent. "But more than this," continued the purchaser, "I have bought you to set you free" and striking off his bonds he said, "Go: you are a free man." Thereupon, falling at the feet of his deliverer the overjoyed freedman cried out, "Oh, Massa! I am your slave forever!" Even so, redeemed one, is our Christ, who bought us with His own precious blood, waiting for us to fall at His feet and offer Him the life which He has purchased and set free. Thus does Paul, once the bond-slave of sin, now rejoice to call himself "the (voluntary) bond-slave of Jesus Christ." Very beautifully is the same truth set forth in our Lord's offering of Himself to do the will of the Father. The passage (Heb. 10:5,) in which He speaks of offering His body to the Father, even unto its cruel piercing on the cross, is quoted, from Ps. 40:6. There the striking phrase for "A body didst thou prepare me," is "mine ear hast thou opened (or bored)." When a slave who had become free wished to remain a voluntary bondman in the house of the master he had come to love, he stood by the door-post while the master pierced his ear with an awl. Ever after the pierced ear marked him as one who, though entitled to freedom, had joyfully yielded himself to the loved master as a willing slave for life. The Holy Spirit uses this figure as a vivid picture of the absolute and loving submission to the will of the Father of Him who said of Himself, "I am come down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me," and "I am among you as he that serveth." Even thus would God have us, who are all "Sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus," offer ourselves in glad surrender to the Father.
Nor need any humble soul who has so offered himself to God ever doubt that he belongs to God. For all His children belong to Him before they offer themselves to Him. Consecration does not confer ownership, it presumes it. It is not in order to be His, but because we are His, that we yield up our lives. It is purchase that gives title; delivery simply gives possession. The question is not, "Do I belong to God?" but "Have I yielded to God that which already belongs to Him?" Writing once to a friend concerning this point, as to whether one surrendering to God could without doubt say, "I am thine," there came back this luminous statement: "You are God's already, by purchase: now deliver the goods!" How true, how simple. "Ye are not your own." Why? Because "ye are bought." The text shows us clearly that the title to our lives is with God; the possession with us. The offering to God is thus simply giving to God that which already belongs to Him by right of purchase. Wherefore we need never have any fear of non-acceptance; never any doubt that we are His. That was settled when He purchased us; yea "before the foundation of the world" He chose us in Christ Jesus. The question is, have we yielded possession, have we delivered the goods? You go to a jeweler and buy a costly diamond, paying him for it, and leaving it in his possession to be called for later. The next day when you call he refuses to deliver it. By law you are its rightful owner, but he unjustly keeps you out of possession. Even so God in His love rifled heaven of its rarest treasure to purchase us, yet we may refuse to yield Him the life so ransomed. And this brings us to the next thought, that surrender is
II. A VOLUNTARY OFFERING.
There is a threshold which God will not cross: it is that of human responsibility. He will press to its utmost verge to plead, woo, yea, even weep at the door of the heart that is refusing Him full possession; but He will never force an entrance. The most solemn thought about the offering of the life is that when the Holy Spirit has done His work in convincing us of God's call to it, He leaves it with us to yield or not to yield. Even while the very Christ of Love stands and pleads for our lives, saying, "How often would I," it may be said of us, "but ye would not." Into that marred visage we may look and say: "Yea, Lord, I know that thou hast bought me at an awful cost; I know I am Thine by the highest and holiest claim that can be urged upon me, but I am busily engrossed in my own worldly plans, pleasures, and ambitions, and I do not care to yield my life to Thee!"
In I Samuel 10:27, we read concerning Saul, their king, that "The children of Belial...despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace." So our King left His throne in the heavens, took upon Himself the form of a servant, and died a death of agony and shame that we might be exalted to share His eternal glory. Yet we may in effect despise Him, and refuse to bring Him that gift of all gifts for which His heart is yearning—the gift of ourselves. Withal He will not coerce us: He does not clamor against us. He simply holds His peace. And why? Because Love expects a voluntary return from the dearest object of its suffering and sacrifice, and when none is given, Love in grieved and wounded silence holds its peace. Look not, unyielding one, for the Christ to cry out against you: to upbraid and reproach you: to vehemently command you to this step. The very delicacy of Love forbids it. What wife who truly loves, after that she has toiled, and suffered, and sacrificed, and poured out her very heart's blood for him whom she loves, would not shrink from the thought of extorting a response to her devotion by commands, censure, hints and reproaches? The quick instinct of love looks for a spontaneous and voluntary response, and will grieve in silence rather than attempt to force it. What fragrance is to the rose, color to the sunset sky, spotlessness to the falling snow, voluntariness is to the surrender of the life. The very fragrance and sweet savor of Christ's sacrifice is that it was the free-will offering of Love. He looks for the same from us. This is why the Word of God is not filled with command to yield the life. This is why, when Christ speaks, He cries, "I beseech you, brethren." It is Love that is speaking. And every page that is crimsoned with His blood: every verse that tells of His sufferings: every line that chronicles His sacrifice, is Love speaking to us. If these waken in us no response, then our King is silent. For Love would rather hold its peace than extort the response which the vision alone of its suffering and sacrifice should quickly prompt. Furthermore, surrender is
III. THE VOLUNTARY OFFERING OF OURSELVES.
It is ourselves that God wants. No gift of money, time, service or talents will meet the yearning of His heart for ourselves. For God is love, and Love would above all things have the heart. Thus surrender is a transaction between Redeemer and redeemed, and whatsoever falls short of the sacred gift of a yielded heart falls short of all. There is that in the heart of the poorest and most degraded which shrinks from money when it needs love. How much more so with the Lover of our souls. Silver and gold, time and talents, ministry and service, are acceptable to God as an accompaniment of surrender, but never as an evasion of it. There are those who will give wealth, time and effort, but who in their secret hearts have never yet yielded themselves to God. When in the silence and secrecy of their own communion with God, this issue rises before them they tremble and grow pale, and shrink back from this definite transaction with God. And yet if God is to be all to us, we must yield all to Him. Never can that confidential relationship between the Redeemer and His redeemed, which is the highest blessedness of the believer's life, be established until we give ourselves to Him who gave Himself for us. Without this yielding of ourselves to Him we have not, in a profound sense of the word, received Him as Lord, even though we know Him as Saviour. Have we ever pondered this distinction? Paul calls Him "Jesus Christ our Lord." "Jesus" we know: "They shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." "Jesus—Saviour;" how much the word means! "He has saved us from the guilt of sin; He is saving us from the power of, sin; He will save us from the presence of sin." We know the peace of remitted sin: we know the victory over defeated sin: we shall some day know the glory of vanished sin. As Saviour we know whom we believe, and know that He is able to save unto the uttermost all them that draw near to God through Him. As Saviour He never fails in time of need, has never lost a battle for the weakest soul who puts his trust in Him. However fierce the temptation to those who trust Him, He will always "with the temptation make a way of escape." Verily we rejoice in Him first of all as Jesus! So also do we know Him as Christ—the Anointed One. For He has anointed us with His own Holy Spirit. And the anointing which we have received of Him abideth, and we need not that any man teach us. That Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of God, dwells within us. He comforts: He guides: He gives love, joy and peace: He purifies: He reveals the things of Christ: He makes us like Christ: He will unveil in us the very glory of Christ. But this Son of God whom we confess as our Saviour, and joy in as our Anointer, do we also receive as our Lord (for Lord means Master), owner and proprietor of ourselves absolutely and forever, by right of redemption?
Beloved, is Jesus Christ OUR LORD, in the fullest sweep of the term? Have we gladly yielded to Him the Mastership of ourselves, our lives, our all? Or, have we accepted the privileges of redemption, in salvation and anointing, without acknowledging the claim of redemption, namely, Mastership—Lordship? Is He Master of ourselves, our gold and silver, our affections, thoughts, time, talents? How can any one in this respect call Jesus LORD, save by the Spirit? Beloved, does that Spirit which witnesses to you of remission of sins, and sealing of the Spirit, also bear witness with exultant joy to the acknowledged ownership, the absolute, undisputed Mastership of Jesus Christ as Lord of your life? "Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" When Mary said "they have taken away my Lord": when Thomas at the vision of His wounds cried out "My Lord!": when in the gray dawn by the sea the disciples whispered "It is the Lord"; that word Lord was fraught with a significance which does not seem to be wrought into the fabric of our lives as it was in theirs. He was "the Master" to them by their own glad, grateful, voluntary choice. They crowned Him Lord of all, not merely in a flight of song, or a burst of sentiment, or in a moment of transient emotion. The master-passion of their lives was to be wholly for Him who had given up all for them. They were in blood earnest in their dedication to Him. The scene in Acts 2:44, 45, enigma as it is to an undedicated life, glows with the splendor of the very presence of Him who was so literally crowned as Lord of all, that in that remarkable multitude "neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own"! Beloved, is Jesus Christ, not only your Saviour, your Christ, but also your Lord?
IV. THE VOLUNTARY OFFERING OF OURSELVES UNTO GOD.
Not to a calling, a field, an occupation, or a principle, but to God. We do well to note this. For with many the thought of the yielded life is always linked with the mission field, the Gospel ministry, or some other special form of service. Immediately that the claim of Christ upon the life is pressed home there comes up the test, "Can I preach the Gospel, or can I go to China, or India, or Africa?" Now God does not call us to surrender to a field or a calling, but to yield ourselves in blank to Him. The real issue is not will I go to Africa, but do I trust God enough to place my life in His hands without regard to the particular place or form of service in which He may desire it. Paul says of the Macedonians that they "first gave their own selves unto the Lord, and [then] unto us by the will of God" (2 Cor. 8:5). That is, having settled in their own minds that they could "trust the Man who had died for them" and that His will was the best thing in the universe for them, they first gave themselves without reserve to Him. Thus yielding to God, the Holy Ghost, filling them with Himself, filled them with a glad and willing obedience to the particular acts of service or sacrifice which God, in His will, had for them. "First,...unto God; then unto us by the will of God." This is the divine order. The real battle is fought over this. "First, ...unto God." The real victory is to trust His will without regard to what His will may be or where His will may lead: to yield ourselves to God, rather than to struggle to go to the foreign mission field against an unyielding will. When the struggle to give ourselves wholly unto God is settled then the battle is won. For the Holy Spirit fills the wholly yielded life with such a glad spirit of obedience as to make the after-doing of God's special will for us the joy and delight of our life. The true missionary, once yielded to God, goes to his field not with doubt and reluctance, but with unspeakable gladness, born of a free-will service to the God whose he is and whom he serves. Wherefore when such tests as above enter into the arena of our struggle to yield to God, let us meet them by saying, "Lord, I give myself wholly to Thee, to do all Thy will, and if this be Thine after-will for me, Thou wilt give me grace to do it with joy when that time comes." The grace to do some special act of God's will comes abundantly to him who has yielded himself to do all of that will. And this brings us easily and naturally to the last thought in the definition of surrender, that it is:
V. THE VOLUNTARY OFFERING OF OURSELVES UNTO GOD TO DO HIS WILL INSTEAD OF OUR OWN.
This is the supreme aim and purpose of the yielded life. The will of the flesh and the will of God are in discord. Fallen man is in rebellion against the perfect will of God. The redemption of Jesus Christ would bring him back into perfect accord with that will, and looks forward to the day when that will shall be done as perfectly in a redeemed earth as now in heaven. Wherefore to do the will of God, and no longer do the will of the flesh, is the only attitude the child of God, who is to joy in that will through all eternity, can possibly take in the fleeting years of his pilgrimage on earth. Surrender is simply the voluntary act which places him now in that attitude. Such surrender is not an act of merit, or self-righteousness, by which the yielded life wins or deserves more from God than the unyielded one. But that surrender is predicated upon the manifested fact that the God of all grace, eager to carry out His perfect will in the life of His every child, can do so only as that life is yielded to Him, His all-wise dealings in it, and His glorious purposes for it.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice"—Romans 12:1.
"The Lord hath need of him"—Luke 19:34.
Why should we recognize Christ's right: why hear His call: why answer His beseeching for the yielding of our lives? Because surrender is the answer to His love: the supply of His need.
I. IT IS THE ANSWER TO HIS LOVE.
In a little chapel in a European village hangs a picture of the Christ. The artist who painted it was a child of God redeemed by the blood of Christ from a life of sin and folly. So filled with love for his dying Saviour was his rejoicing soul that when he came to paint, that soul was flooded with tenderest love, and into every lineament, pose and expression of the Divine Man he painted love, love, LOVE as few had done before, or have done since. Underneath the picture of the Sufferer he had written the lines:
"All this I did for thee,
What hast thou done for Me?"
One summer day there strolled into the little church a young nobleman. Loitering along the aisle his attention was arrested by the painting, into which the Spirit of God had breathed His own love through the fashioning hands of the artist. As he saw the love depicted in every lineament of that divine face; as he saw the pierced hands, and bleeding brow, the wounded side; as he slowly scanned the couplet
"All this I did for thee,
What hast thou done for Me?"
a new revelation of the claim of Jesus Christ upon every life upon which His grace had been outpoured flashed upon him. Hour after hour passed as he sat intently gazing upon the face of the Suffering One. As the day waxed apace, and the lingering rays of sunlight shot aslant aisle and pew, they fell upon the bowed form of Zinzendorf, weeping and sobbing out his devotion to the Christ whose love had not only saved his soul, but conquered his heart. Out from that little church he went forth to do a mighty life work, which has circled the earth with the missions of that Moravian people, who seem to have realized and incarnated the love of Christ for a lost world, as no other denomination of God's Church militant has yet done.
Believer, have you had this vision of the suffering Christ, not only as Saviour, but as the wooer and the winner of your own heart's best love? Has His passion for you kindled in your heart a responsive, burning love for Him? Has His love unto death not only brought you glad salvation, but stirred you to willing surrender? Accepting His redemption do you also joyously acknowledge His ownership? Is He a crowned King in your life, as well as a Lamb bleeding for your life? Do you recognize the claims of His love, as well as the privilege of it? Or, exulting in its sacrifice are you yet mute to its appeals?
You have been some time in a great revival meeting when every influence seemed to be beseeching men to be saved. The preacher has poured forth his message with eager, burning earnestness direct to the hearts of the multitude before him. The prayers that have gone up have been but sobbing pleadings that lost men might yield to God. The songs that have floated out over the vast congregation have stirred and thrilled your inmost soul with the intensity of their entreaty. And then, as under it all, men and women sat unyielding, unmoved, undeciding, you have cried out in amazement that souls could resist unto the end such mighty influences as were at work before your eyes, and were so profoundly felt in your own soul. But child of God, "art thou not inexcusable, whosoever thou art that judgest, for wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself?" Have the men and women who sit stolid and apparently unmoved known the mercies of God as you know them? Have they been snatched from a horrible, impending doom by a dying Saviour as you have? Is heaven, with all its bliss and glory, open before them, and assured to them as it is to you?
Have their souls, reddened with sin, been washed white like snow as yours has? Have they felt the touch of Christ's healing hand, heard the tender tones of His divine forgiveness, exulted in the unspeakable peace of His salvation, had the tear-blinded vision of His agony and deathless love that you have? Ah, beloved, if the refusal of a sinner to give up his sins under the pleadings of the Spirit is a solemn responsibility, is not the refusal of a believer to give up his life, after he has experienced all the mercies of God, also a sad and solemn thing to the heart of that God? If the sinner is culpable in steadfastly resisting the Christ who wants to save him, are not we much more so in resisting the Christ who has saved us, and now wants to use us for His glory and the salvation of others? And how He pleads for the yielded lives of His children! Hear Him as through His servant Paul He voices His tender entreaty to us: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice." What a scene is here! Not man, not Paul: but Jesus Christ, through man, beseeching His children for the lives He so much needs for His service. Picture Him entering this room to-night. As we sit with hushed, expectant hearts the door opens and He enters! Down the aisle comes that form, once a familiar sight by the shores of Galilee, in the streets of Jerusalem, and in the thronging feasts of the people. Passing quietly to the teacher's place He turns, and we look upon the face of Jesus! There is the same smile that gladdened the hearts of His own two thousand years ago; the same familiar voice that thrilled their inmost being as it spoke the words of life and peace; the same gaze that bespeaks Him at once the man of sorrows and of tender, compassionate, quenchless love. How still our hearts grow! How filled the room seems with His Presence! How breathless we sit: once self-absorbed, now Christ-absorbed! And now, as the instinct of prayer steals into our remorseful hearts, we would beseech His forgiveness for our coldness which now seems to us an awful shame. We would beseech His forebearance with our selfishness which now fills us with astonishment and grief unutterable. We would beseech His forgetfulness of our lack of communion, which now in His presence seems almost unforgivable. We would beseech His compassionate grace for our failure to tell the heathen world of His love, for now it seems red handed crime. But as our heart is flooded with the sense of our unworth, worldliness, and faithlessness, and our lips begin to move and our knees to bend in petition, behold a marvel! Do our eyes deceive us? He the King, the Lord, the Creator begins to beseech us the subjects, the servants, the created! Stretching forth His scarred hands, touching His blood-stained brow, pointing to His pierced side—all tokens of the mercies of God, He speaks. "Children of God, I beseech you! By the need of dying men: by the the shortness of the time: by the follies of the world: by the wasted years of your life: by the secret longings of your own heart: by My blood shed for you: by My death instead of yours: by My resurrection, which is life for you: by My glory prepared for you: and by My Kingship to be shared by you—I beseech you by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God."
Alas, indeed, for those who will not accept Him as Saviour. But alas, too, for those who, crimsoned with the blood of His redemption, sheltered from the sin-smiting hand of God by His quivering body, thrilling with exultant life from His glorious resurrection, still will not yield to Him as Lord of their lives. How can our eyes be blind to the vision of His love, our ears be deaf to the mute pathos of its appeal, our hearts fail to fill, and throb, and well-nigh burst with longing to requite in some measure by surrender, sacrifice, and suffering even unto death, His matchless love for us? Astounding to ourselves will be the spectacle of our own unyielded lives when in the great day of reward we stand in the presence of the Prince of Sufferers! The very glory that enrobes us, as it attests His grace, will be the mightiest witness against our failure of responsiveness to it. Being risen with Him, being joined with Him in fellowship of glory and kingship, we shall also be associated with Him in fellowship of judgment. With Him we shall judge ourselves! Gazing back with His vision upon our unyielded life we shall see it then as He sees it, and join in His solemn judgment upon its wasted opportunities. Tremendous thought! "But if we judged ourselves we would not be judged." Wherefore, let us judge now this question of the unyielded life as in the light of eternity we shall then judge it. And so shall we here see its ingratitude, its awful waste, its utter failure to carry out His perfect purpose. And so seeing, and so touched by the vision of His matchless love we shall, before "the night cometh," lay it at the feet of "Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father."
II. IT IS THE SUPPLY OF HIS NEED.
When the Master sent His disciples to bring the colt upon which He would make His entry into Jerusalem, the owners of the colt said, "Why loose ye the colt?" And they said, "The Lord hath need of him." The Lord of heaven and earth, He who could say, "The cattle on a thousand hills are mine," in infinite grace and humility of spirit deigned to say that He who had created all things by the word of His power needed this humblest beast of burden. Even so does He need the life of each man and woman who has been born into His heavenly kingdom. Every word in this simple sentence is full of meaning.
The Lord hath need of thee, saved one. Trade, with all its rush, and fever, and wear, and waste, lays its hands upon the Christian and says curtly:
"I need you to plan, think, toil, accumulate, and die in my service." Society, too, asserts its claim, and says: "I need you with your wit, beauty, talents and accomplishments to shine in the brilliant circles of fashion, and will give you pleasure without limit if you will yield to me." Professional life lays its hand on him and says: "I need you to adorn your chosen calling, and will gratify your highest ambitions if you will come." But there comes a voice, softly floating down from twenty vanished centuries, a voice which whispers to every redeemed child of God in the hour when wealth, and pleasure, and ambition have failed to satisfy his secret longings; a voice which is true to-day as of old: "The; Lord hath need of thee." Suppose you were absent from home, engrossed in business, pleasure, or professional activities, and a swift messenger came to you with the tidings that your wife was in deadly peril and needed you forthwith. None of the other varied interests that clamored for your tarrying could hold you by their outcry of need. That swift-handed artist, your own heart, would quickly paint a picture of the wifely love of her who was now in jeopardy, and the whispered message, "She whom thou lovest is sick," would send you flying to her bedside. Even so, amid all the conflicting interests that lay claim to your life, you cannot escape this great truth that the Lord whom you love needs you. He who loves you as no being in the universe loves: He who left the glory of heaven; He who endured the wrath of the Father against sin: He who bled between earth and heaven, all for you: He, your risen Lord, sends you this message to-day: "The Lord hath need of thee."
How precious, then, is this thought that the Lord really NEEDS us! The other phase of this truth we all know. That we need Him is beyond question. Not only do we sing it, but daily, hourly, do we profoundly realize it: "I need Thee every hour." For light, help, peace, victory, power, yea for all things we need Him every moment of our existence. But that He needs us—how blessed! And yet it is true. "I am the vine: ye are the branches" is the message which comes to us from His own lips. But have we caught all of its meaning? Think a moment upon the symmetry of this truth. Surely the branches need the vine. It is the source of their life. From it those branches, moment by moment, draw the tiny streams of life-giving sap that feed and build up their fabric of leaf, fibre and fruit. Apart from it they could do nothing. Severed from it they starve, shrivel, and perish. But is it not also true that the vine needs the branches? For the vine bears its fruit through the branches. It cannot get along without branches. Not a single cluster of grapes does it grow upon its own main stem, but always upon some tiny branch off-shooting from it. "I have chosen you that ye should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide." Christ is the living Vine. He is the source of our supply. But He bears His fruit through us. He needs us for fruit-bearing as surely as we need Him for life. There is a profound sense in which He cannot get along without us. Sometimes a great vine grows up behind a castle wall. No eye from without sees its hidden stem, strong, sturdy, and grounded in the rich garden soil. But it makes itself known through thousands of branches which cover the wall with a profusion of foliage, blossom, and luscious purple fruitage, delighting the eye of every passer-by. The vine is the source of the branches' life: the branches are the expression of the vine's life. So Christ is the living Vine. He is hid behind the veil that separates the eternal from the mortal, and our life is ''hid with Him in God." Men do not see Him: "the world seeth Me not." While He is the head in heaven we are the members on the earth. Therefore the hidden Vine must make Himself known through His countless fruit-bearing branches. He stands no more in street, and field, and synagogue, as of old, to preach the glad Gospel, but He would do it through us. He does not minister to the sick and afflicted with physical hands, but He needs us to do it. He does not warn the impenitent, comfort the sorrowing, cheer the fallen by word of lip to-day, but He would fain minister thus through us, His members and branches.
Again, the Lord hath need of THEE. Observe, what a humble instrument it was that Christ declared He needed. For that triumphal entry into the city He might have chosen splendid chariot and mettled chargers, for He who created all was worthy of earth's richest and choicest. But He chose the humblest, lowliest, most insignificant beast of burden to be found, and said, "The Lord hath need of him." Mark, He did not simply use the colt for lack of something better, but He chose it, and that too, in fulfillment of Scripture. Just so, "God hath chosen the foolish things...and God hath chosen the weak things...and base things of the world, and things which are despised hath God chosen" (I Cor. 1:26, etc.). Those who are nothing are God's choice! And He chooses the wise and noble only when they are willing to be as nothing. He can do more with consecrated nothingness than self-sufficient pride and loftiness. And so the message comes, to-day:—"You who are servants with but one talent: who feel that all others are fitted for God's service except you: who shrink with fear and trembling from every proffered opportunity: you who are the humblest, the weakest, the most obscure, 'The Lord hath need of thee.' You are really God's chosen ones, if you will but place yourselves in His hands in this same spirit of nothingness which He alone can use to keep the flesh from 'glorying in His presence.'" Let us appropriate this blessed truth for our very own, and put ourselves in the hands of Him who with a worm can thresh the mountains. And then as we walk the streets, as we toil at our business, as we shut ourselves into the chamber of prayer, as we bow over His Word, as we work on in the humble sphere of life where He has placed us, it will be very sweet to hourly whisper to ourselves, "The Lord hath need of me, the Lord of heaven and earth needeth me!" Gladly, therefore, will we yield our lives to Him who in infinite grace tells us that He needs us, and condescends to make us co-workers with Himself through time and through eternity.
"Be ye steadfast, unmoveable"—I Corinthians 15:58.
"No man, having put his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God"—Luke 9:62.
"Be not afraid, only believe"—Mark 5:36.
I. BE DEFINITE.
Be definite. There is a distinct shore line between land and sea. There is a clear-cut horizon line between sky and mountain peak. Let the surrender which separates the old life of self-seeking from the new life of self-renunciation be specific and definite. The approach to it may have been by a gradual march of events, years and gracious providences. But when the call is clearly seen, the issue met, and the battle fought, let the decision be definite. Either yield, or assume the solemn responsibility of refusal. Some toy and dally with seen truth, deceiving themselves with the thought that the passive drift of indecision is not rejection. But it is. And the seared and stultified conscience begotten from such a habit works irreparable havoc and ruin. Every crisis of decision must be met, and we meet it in the negative when we neglect to meet it at all. Therefore settle the question as becomes an immortal soul redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and now brought face to face with His consequent claim. Be deliberate indeed. Then be definite. It is a good thing to record the fact and date of so blessed a transaction with your Lord. A glance at such will do much to steady you in after times of stress and trial.
II. BE TRUSTFUL.
When you commit your case into the hands of a physician you are fair enough to let him have his own way. Be at least equally fair with God. Be patient while He works in you. You cannot leap at one bound into the full man in Christ Jesus. You cannot dethrone self at one blow. You are not only to renounce self but also to perfect that renunciation by living daily the life of self-renunciation. (Luke 9:23). You will not, at the beginning, see all the meaning of surrender. You would not be able to bear it then. You will not at first have a complete revelation of the self-life. It would break your heart to see yourself all at once! You would be filled with despair. You will not come into the full light of His Word—the full knowledge of His will—in a moment, a month, a year. True, He has promised to "guide you into all truth," but not all at once. Wherefore be trustful, be patient. He knows you as you will never know yourself. There is much in you that requires the time element in your purification and preparation. "He himself knew what He would do." Wherefore trust Him. It will all come right in His own time and way.
III. BE COMPREHENSIVE.
Make no reservation with God. Let the act of surrender sweep in every interest, plan, power, and possession of your being. Let one foot of the compass be pivoted at the very center—the heart and will—and let the other describe a circle to its most distant horizon, omitting nothing from its encircling bounds. As there is no detail of our lives beneath the notice of a loving God, there should be none too trivial to yield to Him. Of course all God asks is sincere-heartedness, not omniscience. He does not expect us to see at a flash all the details which are comprehended in the act of consecration. The God of love whose worship included a sacrifice for sins of ignorance bears very gently with such ignorance in His children. All he asks is that we yield honestly all we do see, and yield trustfully all we do not see but which He may in days to come show us to be comprehended in our act. Let us be sincerely minded to be wholly His, "and if in anything ye are otherwise minded even this will God reveal unto you." So if our hearts are honest in purpose and act, let us not come into the bondage of fearing that we have not compassed everything in our act of surrender and that therefore God accepts it not. This is grave error. Our God is not unreasonable and arbitrary, but tender, loving, compassionate. The consecration of our life, with an honest heart, up to our best light and understanding of consecration, is perfectly satisfactory and acceptable to Him.
But let us beware of anything knowingly unyielded to Him: of any self-engrafted exception in our act of renunciation: of any point where the will remains consciously unsubmitted to God. When we whisper within ourselves "I can say yes to God, I can submit to His will, I can trust His love in all except this one thing," we may be assured that this one thing will work spiritual disaster in our lives. For a child to refuse to obey a mother's direction to pick up from the floor some object which it has petulantly hurled there, may seem a trivial thing. But the spirit of disobedience behind that act is a most momentous thing, for it breaks communion between parent and child and will work irreparable injury to its character in after life. Even so the thing we knowingly reserve from our dedication to God may seem trivial to us. But the failure of trust or obedience involved therein is fatal to that relation of fullest confidence toward God which is absolutely necessary to His fullest manifestation in our spiritual life. It takes but a trifling barrier to keep out the sunshine, but the keeping out of that sunshine is far from being a trifle. So the unyielded thing that bars God's fullness may seem nothing to us, but the fullness which is thus missed is everything to the soul that longs for the unveiled shining of His face.
One wild, stormy night, as the dwellers in a little cliff town on the New England coast watched the tall lighthouse through the thick gloom, a strange thing happened. The warning bells rang out in wild clangor, and the light was seen to suddenly surge forward, hang for an instant suspended over the sea, and then disappear in its swift arc-flight into the seething, hissing waters below, carrying to swift death the lonely occupants. The morning light revealed the striking secret of the midnight catastrophe. The dwellers in the lighthouse had sometime before fastened a stout cable from the top of the beacon to the rocks below, for the hoisting of provisions and supplies. When the tide and storm arose that night the giant billows beat with weighty blows upon the great hawser until, by degrees, the tall iron supports were strained, and the overbalanced lighthouse crashed to swift ruin. A single line had done the deadly work! A single reservation or default in our surrender to God may work like havoc. If we are saved it cannot wreck our soul. But it may so bar out God's purpose of fullness in and through us that our ship of life, though unwrecked, may yet sail into the harbor of eternity an empty, pauper craft instead of a richly freighted galleon, loaded to the water's verge with all the fullness of God.
IV. BE FINAL.
In all true consecration the deed of transfer is irrevocable. Let it be done once and forever, for all time and all eternity. Let it be so absolute and unconditional that there shall never be any need of renewing it, because there has never been any thought of revoking it. Sometimes a thoughtless nurse will tease a child by offering it some trifle, then drawing it back out of reach as the little one essays to take it. She may repeat this process again and again until the child is wholly uncertain as to whether the object is to be given or not. Some efforts at surrender seem equally insincere and futile. The life is apparently offered to God, but as soon as He would lay His hand upon it to possess it we nervously draw it back, only to repeat again the process of offer and withdrawal. Whoso gives his life to God should give it never expecting to retake it.
So not only all re-taking but all re-giving raises a suspicion of insincerity in the giver. What man who has made an honest sale or gift could re-sell or re-give without impeaching his own sincerity? Hence when the life has been really given to God there is no such thing as a re-consecration. Neither should a truly surrendered child of God be weekly or monthly re-consecrating himself to God. Every time he does so he casts a doubt upon the genuineness of the transaction by which he gave himself to God once and forever. What we may do, and should do, is, not only weekly or monthly, but daily and hourly to say to ourselves, not, "Lord, I give myself to Thee again" but, "Lord, I am thine, now and forever; let me never doubt it or be unmindful of it."
There is a beautiful story of Bengel, the famous commentator. Toiling all day long over the Book of books he was watched by one of his students to see how faithful he would be to his evening devotions amid his weariness. As the clock struck the midnight hour the curious watcher saw the saintly man close the book and betake himself to rest with the simple words, "Lord, Thou knowest that we are on the same old terms!" Even so as servants of God may we, and should we, day by day look up into the face of our Master and say, "Lord, thou knowest that we are on the same old terms; that I am Thine and Thou art mine, forever."
V. BE STEADFAST.
Look to it that your dearest friends shake not that steadfastness. Many a soul stands strong and steady against the adversary's grosser and more flagrant assaults upon his determination to be wholly the Lord's. But the heart grows sick, and the soul faint, when, with new steps made in the new light of a fuller obedience, there falls upon the pathway the dark shadow of dissent and possible reproach from those whose loving approval and sympathy are so dear to him. Subtle and ensnaring is the temptation at this point, and many fall under its deadly onslaught. The wife who would give up all else for the Lord, shrinks with absolute terror from the thought of the possible barrier which her closer walk with Him may raise between her and a worldly husband. The husband who would sacrifice all for Christ meets the limit of that all when he faces the thought that the wife of his love will not stand with him in the peculiar place of separation. The test seems too hard and cruel. That "a man's foes should be they of his own household" is too much for flesh and blood. And so the earthly tie becomes the limitation of a loyalty to Christ which should be limitless. Yet all this is of the evil one. Such is the stamp which Christ puts upon it when He says to His own loved disciple, seeking to allure Him from His walk with God, "Get thee behind me, Satan."
The tempter is simply using the tenderest ties of our nature to draw us away from God. And mark, that the compromise we there make invariably fails of its object. The Christian wife who yields to the play, the dance, or the card table, in the hope of winning or preserving influence over a loved husband, is taking the surest plan to destroy it. The only hope she has of lifting him to a closer walk with God is to show him the worth and preciousness of such to her own soul, and thus fill him with desire for a like richer life in Christ. But the supreme thing which convicts him of the preciousness of such a life is to see that it is so dear to her that she will not even sacrifice it upon the altar of her own love for him. Wherefore that life is at once cheapened and dishonored in his sight, when it is so sacrificed or compromised. That which is cast away so lightly must be, he argues, of so little worth that he will not trouble himself to seek it. The jewel in her spiritual crown which had seemed a blazing diamond is, after all, only paste. Respect is gone, and influence vanishes with it. The very compromise made to gain influence has really annihilated it. There are hearts that have found this true, to their own unspeakable sorrow. In numberless cases this, our very steadfast loyalty to God, is His chosen plan to bring a loved one to Christ or to a deeper life in Him.
What grief then to know some day that our faithlessness has been used by the enemy to wreck or mar a life we love. We know a wife who is to-day persistently rejecting Jesus Christ because she would rather be lost with her husband than saved without him. A wifely sacrifice this seems to her, to lose her soul with his. But what awful agony to wake up in perdition and realize that if she had been obedient to God he would have followed! There are many such wives and husbands who, bearing aloft the standard of a separated life in the face of every other foe, have let it go into the dust before this one, to their own secret shame and confusion. He that cherisheth not his own beloved ones is worse than a brute. But "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me." Let us be true to God at any cost, then we need not fear results, for God will care for all the consequences of obedience. But no soul can estimate the endless train of ruin that will follow disobedience to His known will, however lofty may be the pretext that prompts us to it. You who gently and lovingly, yet with rock-bound steadfastness, stand true to God in all things, are doing the one thing which can possibly lift a loved one up to your own vision of spiritual life and walk. Be not afraid. Be patient and loving in it all, and the victory which is begotten of prayer and obedience to God, though it may be long in coming, will, when it comes, be all the more glorious and complete.
VI. BE HOPEFUL.
A young man in the prime of life lay dying of consumption. The years of his strong, young life had been passed outside of Christ until within a short time preceding his last illness, when, won at last by the long-suffering grace of God, he gave his heart to Christ. A childlike trust in Christ, of singular beauty and restfulness in one so young in the faith, characterized his few remaining days. Leaving his room one day a friend suggested to him the hope that if it were God's will He might raise him up again to health and strength. His face lit up, and turning to the speaker, with countenance aglow with the very joy of the thought, he said, "Yes, brother, it would be beautiful to live now!" After the years away from his Lord; after the sweet realization of His tender love in redeeming his soul from death, the thought of living for Christ instead of for self, clothed life with a beauty and glory which filled the heart of the dying boy with wistful longing that could now know no fruition here.
Ah, beloved, after the years of disappointment, of baffled plans, of self-seeking, of following the Lord afar off, of bitter rebellion against His chastening hand, we reach at last the end of self, and yield to our Lord and Master the life for which He has been tenderly pleading all these years. And then with what glad assent do our hearts, echoing the words of the dying boy, cry out in sheer joy: "It is beautiful to live now!" Oh, soul, troubled, dismayed, darkened, dazed, your life has been a jar, and jangle, and discord, solely because it has been out of the center, and that center—Christ. But now that the stubborn will is yielded and His blessed will sought and found to be so "good, and acceptable, and perfect:" now that you know the peace of God as well as peace with God: now that you have found the life plan that He has, from all eternity, had for you, and are joyously obeying His word to Daniel, "Stand in thy lot until the end:" now that "to live is Christ," and "to die is gain:" all this and unspeakably more will make it "beautiful to live now!" Wherefore be hopeful. Though your progress toward Christ-likeness seems slow: though appalled at the growing revelation of your own fleshliness: though the yielded life means more than you ever dreamed before: though the "and now little children abide in Him," which is the mountain height of your Christian attainment here, seems each day to rise higher and higher above your out-reaching soul, yet—be hopeful. God is working. He is guiding, shaping, transforming. He is having His way with you as never before. Look back over the days, the weeks, the months since you gave all to Him and rejoice at the real and blessed growth of His life in you. Not yet where you want to be? Nay nor where He desires you to be, and will bring you to be. But He is faithful. Do you be hopeful, and He will bring you into the place, the power, and the peace foreordained in Christ for you from all eternity.
"Behold, all things are become new "—2 Corinthians 5:17.
"Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"—Acts 9:6.
After the Lord's tender plea for the presentation of our bodies has been heeded: after His mastership has been acknowledged: after conviction and struggle have given place to decision—what then?
I. THE FULLNESS OF THE SPIRIT.
"Will there be manifestation of the fullness of the Spirit when we yield our lives to Him? Will we be aware of a great inner change in those lives? Will there be a conscious transformation, a conscious new estate of Christian experience? To this we answer:—Is the sluggish, stagnant river conscious of the inrushing waters of the sea, as it feels the throb and rush of her cleansing tides? Is the dark, gloomy old castle conscious of the fresh, sweet air that fills its windswept chambers, as they are flung wide open to it? Are the sightless eyes, that have been veiled for years in hopeless darkness, conscious of the bright light of day, when it first breaks upon their enraptured vision? So, assuredly, is there a conscious manifestation to the soul that has given itself, for all time and all things, to God. There must be, there will be a change; a realization of His presence to a degree never known before; a consciousness that the greatest crisis in the spiritual life has been passed. Nor does it matter whether such manifestation of His fullness bursts upon us like the sudden out-flashing of the sun from behind dark clouds, or steals upon us like the slow-increasing glow of the morning twilight, gradual, but sure. Enough for us to know that such manifestation does come; that He does reveal Himself in fullness, power, and blessing never known before. His beseeching us to present our bodies to Him was not idle entreaty; our yielding to Him was not vain experiment. He fulfills His promise, "I will manifest myself as I do not unto the world." Henceforth there is height and depth, peace and power, joy and blessing, communion and service, prayer and praise, such as the past has never possessed. To that soul who gives himself wholly to God, life is transformed beyond his fondest hopes; the blessings of the Abundant Life become richer and fuller as the days go by; God does exceeding abundantly above all he can ask or think. He is "strengthen with might by His Spirit in the inner man;" "filled with all the fullness of God;" made to "abound more and more;" and out of this abundance overflow ministry, testimony, and blessing to those about him." ("The Three-fold Secret of the Holy Spirit," pp. 70, 71.)
Not that surrender is a meritorious act that wins the fullness of the Spirit, but simply the act needed to give the Spirit a chance to fill us. God does not flood our being with great tides of spiritual life, all independent of our own free will. He does not lay hold of men and women and carry them to the mountain tops of Christian life and blessing regardless of all choice and violation of their own. On the contrary the Spirit's method seems to be first, conviction of God's fullness and the soul's need; then a step of obedience or faith which will give a waiting, willing God the desired chance to fulfill that need; and then life and blessing to him who obeys God in taking that step. The revelation and conviction of truth; the obedience of faith consequent upon that revelation; and the blessing consequent upon that obedience is thus, perhaps, the invariable order of the Spirit's working in the soul. It is in this divine order that surrender takes its true place, and that Paul cries, "Yield yourselves to God." Surrender is not bribing or buying the grace of God, it is simply giving it opportunity to work. Surrender does not build the reservoir of God's abundant life, but it does open the channels through which that life may be "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." Christ declares that out of our inmost being shall flow rivers of water. This spake He of the Spirit in them who had faith in Him. But surrender to God is one of the highest forms of faith. For, following the reception of the Spirit by faith, it is one of the highest forms of faith to so implicitly trust God as to give the whole life into His keeping, to do and submit to His will. Wherefore we may always expect to find the fuller life of the Spirit linked with that complete yielding to God which has been the theme of our study in these pages. For God never fails to respond with divine love to every act of faith in His children, and the faith which received the Spirit at conversion cannot fail to know the blessed fullness of that same Spirit when it yields itself wholly to Him who has been received.
The Word says of Christ, "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). Christ, too, says of Himself, "He that followeth me...shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). This striking phrase "the light of life" suggests another sequence of surrender in the light which floods the soul from the presence of the abundant life of the Spirit.—The beams of the pale moon as she voyages across the midnight heavens, fall cold and lifeless upon the recipient earth beneath. But the light of the sun, falling upon that same earth, warms and quickens into life and growth every plant its genial rays touch. It is not only light but is the light of life, a peculiar kind of light, a light which emanates from a life-giving body, and which quickens, and thrills, and begets life in its illuminating as no other light can or does. Of this peculiar kind is the light which is shed abroad in the heart of a yielded child of God. It differs from mere knowledge. It is more than the cold, clear, light which enters through the inlet of the intellect. It is the light of life; the light which radiates from the Spirit of Life within him. No other light illuminates and reveals as this does. The surrendered man sees things as never before. To him the Word of God becomes a new book.
It thrills; it quickens; it convicts of failure and of un-Christlikeness; it searches and lays bare the innermost depths of the soul; it discloses the holiness of God; it stimulates growth; it begets new aspirations; it stirs to zeal and service before unknown. Nor need he marvel at this. For this book is simply the book of the Spirit of Life, who floods its pages with the light of life, in him who has come to know His abundance of life. And not only from the Word of God, but also in the providences of God, and the inward monitions of the Spirit of God, does this new light break in upon his soul. Under it he now begins to understand the secret of guidance. The past lights up anew. Events apparently disconnected are seen to have been links in the chain of God's guidance. Impressions noted, but not understood, are perceived to have been the movings and leadings of God's Spirit within. The will of God is now seen in the chastenings and testings of life, as well as in its joys and blessings, and the indescribable experience of seeing God at work in and through his life is sure proof that the light of life is illumining his inner man with its clear shining.
This, too, is an important phase of the afterward of surrender. When we yield ourselves unto God as a living sacrifice while holy and acceptable in our standing in Christ, we are far from holy in our state. Yet it is only in proportion to our holiness of life and walk in Him that God can work His will in and through us as His instruments. What we are, becomes the measure of what we can do, or rather of what God can do through us. We must be Christlike in inner life if we would be Christlike in outward deed. A holy God needs a holy instrument through which to live His holy life. All that is of self within us hinders the manifestation of the Christ within us. Therefore we may expect that the God who wants a holy instrument for service will, as soon as it is yielded to Him, set His hand to its purification. "Whom the Lord loveth He chastenet;" He "child-traineth," as the word signifies. Once yielded to Him He lays His hand upon us, not in law, but in grace: not in punishment but in purification: not with the wrath of a judge, but the love of a Father. So well pleased is He with His first-born Son that He would, by chastening, conform us all unto the image of that Son. Wherefore it is with the tender love of a Father, solicitious that His child might attain unto His highest purpose of Christ-likeness that there comes upon us that child-training which is the explanation of the furnace, the crucible, and the refining pot. And we ourselves may either greatly aid, or sadly hinder His work in this regard. With our wills pliant and submissive to Him at all points very quickly will He carry on his blessed work within us. But with those wills stubborn and discordant equally slow and unsatisfactory will be the process. "Sanctify them through Thy Truth, Thy Word is Truth," prayed the Master. And it is even thus that the Father child-trains. The Spirit of Truth reveals the barrenness, poverty, and deformity of the self-life, and the richness, fullness, and loveliness of the Christ-life within us. With such revelation of the Truth the Spirit seeks the assent of our will to putting off the one, and putting on the other. And just as we yield our assent will He be able to work into our state, our walk, that sanctification which, in our standing, is already complete in Christ Jesus.
"The same light that shows us sin will show the way out of it," says Andrew Murray. So, too, the same Spirit who reveals sin will lead to detachment from it, and from the things which foster it. Thus it is that the surrendered child of God soon finds himself walking the pathway of separation. Things which were doubtful before are now seen to be sinful. Many aforetime pleasures are relinquished because they no longer bring enjoyment but condemnation. Hosts of so-called innocent gratifications are clearly seen to be wasteful ones in him who is here now "not to do his own will but the will of Him that sent him." The deep change in the inner motive of life—"ye are not your own"—soon works out its consequent changed view of what he dare do with the time, talents, and possessions which are in the stewardship of the man who now belongs to another. He disjoins himself from former favorite pursuits or indulgences because he sees them in an entirely new light, wondering meantime why he did not always, or why others do not now see them thus. And, handfast with separation from things comes isolation from men. Difference in desires raises barriers, as surely as accord therein begets fellowship. How far friendships hinge upon community of interest is only seen when the latter vanishes. The truly consecrated man or woman is the last in the world to cherish a "holier-than-thou" spirit that might repel men: longs to be closer to the heart and life of all men than ever before: is filled with love beyond all previous experience. Yet companionships change; friends seem to be drifting away; a conscious loneliness begins to steal into the heart. Part of the price of a persistent determination to climb the highest mountain peaks of separation and fellowship with God is to lose the comradeship of those who will not climb there with you. It seems a high price to pay but, necessary to win the prize, it is worth the paying. Better a thousand-fold the loneliness of separation from the world than that of separation from God. Better the loneliness of Enoch than the companionship of Lot. There is much of danger that our false conception of "all things to all men," may make us to be nothing to any man. Isolation is insulation. But insulation is power, in the spiritual as well as the electrical sphere. The hearts that need help and light seek it not among those who walk on the level with them, but from those who walk on the heights with God. If loneliness comes into the consecrated life because of its close and conscientious walk with God then welcome such loneliness, for it only brings a closer fellowship with that Lonely One who was the greatest helper a needy, sorrowing world has ever known, even though He walked in utter separation from it.
With purification and separation is linked suffering. There will be more or less of it in every yielded life. While the new man dwells in heavenly places, the old man has been put, and is to be kept, in the place of crucifixion. Thus the consecrated life has a dual aspect. It is related to the risen Christ on the one hand, to the crucified Christ on the other. Hence our experience is two-fold in its character. In our steady progress toward the consummation of our earthly Christian experience, that of abiding in Christ, God finds it needful to deal with us in relation to the self within, as well as the Christ within: from the standpoint of crucifixion, as well as that of resurrection. We bear His cross as well as His yoke. We experience the suffering of the former, as well as the easiness of the latter. His yoke of obedience is easy when Self is on the cross. But Self must and does first suffer in the crucifixion. In times of such suffering, when we find that God is dealing with us on the crucifixion side, let us patiently endure, for it is sure to be followed by a greater revelation of the power of His resurrection life within us. Let us ever remember that we bear about within us the old man, hanging in his appointed place—the cross, and that the place of death for him must forsooth be a place of suffering for us. How much of this we need, God alone knows and appoints. As we press nearer to the climax of abiding in the Resurrected One subtle phases of the self-life are revealed, all of which God expects us to submit to the cross. Of this fact we may be assured, that as we "always bear about in our body the dying [deadness] of the Lord Jesus," the life of the Lord Jesus will also be manifested in our mortal body (2 Cor. 4:10).
God is sure to lead into service the life which is yielded to Him. Such servantship is our lofty privilege here. When we yield we yield ourselves servants to obey Him, and henceforth "His servants we are." To become a servant and find no service would be strange indeed. Therefore if we patiently wait He will surely bring us into our appointed life work. For we are members of His body and He desires to work through us His will and purposes for a lost world. It may not be the active service we have planned. He may design for us a ministry of prayer, of patience, even of suffering for His name. But the highest form of service is to be in His will whatever that may be for us. If time does not, eternity assuredly will reveal that in so doing we have supremely glorified God. The consecrated child of God may therefore trustfully wait upon God for the revelation of and guidance into his life work. In quietness and confidence shall be his strength, nor shall he be put to shame. The ministry which God has chosen for him in Christ from all eternity may burst upon him like the lightning flash. Or it may come to him step by step, in the steady, almost unnoted broadening of some humble ministry until his life-work is before him. By the joy he finds in such ministry, his adaptation to it, its constant presence in his thought and plan, God's seal of success upon it, and his own growing consciousness that God has called him to it, the Spirit will cause him to assuredly gather that this is his place of service. Happy is he who when he hears the voice behind him saying "this is the way, walk ye in it," takes up His yoke with joy and gladness to walk with Him until he too can say, "I have finished the work Thou hast given me to do." Out of God's will he is like an ocean derelict, adrift without pilot, port, or purpose. But once yielded to God, and finding his appointed place, he is like the ruler of a well-laden merchant ship, voyaging with compass, steady wind, and well-marked chart to a definite haven where some glad day his Master's voice shall rejoice his eager heart with, "Well done...thou hast been faithful...I will make thee ruler over many things."
All this I may expect of God after surrender. But now that I am His yielded servant, what may God justly expect of me?
(1) THE DAIILY WALK OF FAITH.
I am to cease from self-dependence, and am henceforth to live a life of constant trust in, and dependence upon the indwelling Christ. I have learned that in me alone, that is in my flesh, there is not one atom of spiritual life, and that the sole source of that spiritual life is the Son of God, who dwells within me in the Spirit. Apart from the Christ within me I am a spiritual pauper. The one great axiom of my new life is to be this: Trust the Christ within you. He is my wisdom, my life, my light. He assures me that the Spirit dwelling within me has taken charge of me. The Spirit will guide: the Spirit will teach: the Spirit will purify. He will reveal the Christ: He will fit me for service: He will speak through me: He will work the works of God through me. He will at all times do all things which my life needs for its perfect growth in Christ. In the old life I schemed, and planned, and fretted concerning my daily round of duty and service. In the new life I am to leave all to Him. In the old life I constantly trusted my strength, my judgment, my wisdom. In the new I am to trust His, and His alone. He is now wholly in charge. The reins are in His grasp. He is the teacher, I am the scholar; He the worker, I only the instrument; He the potter, I the clay. The Spirit is therefore now to have possession and control of me in a sense and measure unknown before I renounced proprietorship. I am now to learn the greatest lesson in the school of faith, the lesson of constant distrust of self, and constant looking unto Jesus. I am to be self-dependent in nothing, Christ-dependent in all things. Not only am I justified by faith, but I now also realize that "the just shall live by faith." Jesus Christ says, "I Am The Life." Therefore I am to be constantly looking to Him; I am to be continually drawing upon Him. I am to be ever living by faith in Him. The justified man says, "I trusted, and received Thee as life;" the surrendered man, "I am trusting, and constantly drawing upon Thy life." His present tense life is to be met by my present tense faith. The correlative of His "I am the Life" is my "Lord, I am living by faith in Thee." The very life which floods heaven is dependent life, "a river of water of life proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." Rev. 22:1. If the Son of God lived thus, and the redeemed in heaven shall live thus, how much more should I, His weak, earthly child, so live. It will take line upon line and precept upon precept, with many failures and blunders on my part, ere my patient Guide will be able to inculcate this lesson of constantly distrusting the flesh within me, and constantly trusting the Christ within me. Yet He is never weary of teaching, and by His grace I shall assuredly learn it, and come to know in measure the blessed experience of the man of Tarsus, as he proclaims the great secret: "I am LIVING BY FAITH." Gal. 2 :20.
(2) The Daily Doing of God's Will.
I am to accept God's will. That will is now to be the standard for the direction of my life. I am no longer to ask myself what I want to do but what God would have me do. Here God's Word as the revelation of that will is to take a new place in my life. I am to accept that Word as the standard by which I am to live. I am to accept it, however it may clash with my own thought or desire. I am to accept it, however others may differ or dissuade. When that Word says "love your enemies, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you," I am to accept and set myself to do this revealed will of God, however impracticable or absurd the world may deem it. When that Word says "casting all your care upon Him for He careth for you," I am to accept that as His will concerning care, and I am immediately to proceed to put it into practice. When that Word says, "My God shall supply all your need," I am to cease from all anxious care concerning my needs and look to God to supply as I obey. As I study God's Word, truth will flash upon me with which my daily life does not agree. I am not for a moment to question that truth, but am at once to bring my daily life into harmony with it. Thus to accept the will of God, as revealed in the Word of God, and to incarnate it in one's own life and walk, is a most heart-searching process for God's surrendered child. It ministers to rapidity of spiritual growth as naught else can possibly do. It fills him with amazement as he sees how far his life has fallen short of God's will.
I am to patiently submit to God's will. To be patient means literally "to stay under." Like the rough diamond under the polisher's tool, I am to stay under God's hand whatever may come upon me. Instead of the exultant spiritual experience I look for may come suffering, tremendous testing, mysterious providences, darkness and uncertainty as to the future. Amid them all I am simply to stay under God's hand.
I am to say "Thy will be done," both in good and evil. I am to learn "in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content." Many are willing to be in God's hand for service, but not under God's hand for purification. They are ready for the field, but not for the furnace or the forge. They are ready to minister, but not to patiently endure all things which come into their lives as either sent, or permitted, by Him. Yet part of my surrender and submission to God is to submit to His choice as to the kind of experience which is to come into my life at and after surrender. He suffered His own Son to come into a place of terrific testing at the hands of the adversary at the very beginning of His ministry. The servant is not greater than his Lord. God knows exactly what is best for me. Therefore, every event which comes into my life after surrender, how ever inexplicable, and hard to endure, I am to patiently submit to as the very thing which God deems best for my purification, strengthening, and growth in the Christian life. "The present circumstance which presses so hard against you (if surrendered to Christ) is the best shaped tool in the Father's hand to chisel you for eternity. Trust Him then. Do not push away the instrument, lest you lose also its work." Consider the unreasonableness of any other attitude. One day I surrender myself to God to live His will instead of my own. The next day comes trial, testing, or suffering. Straightway, perhaps, I grow rebellious and begin to doubt my surrender, my acceptance, yea, even God Himself. That is, not twenty-four hours after I have said, ''Lord, not my will, but thine' I break faith with God because something which is "not-my-will" has entered my life. Let me ever remember that my supreme aim as a surrendered servant is to live the submission which I have made, and that this is exactly what I am doing when I patiently submit to all things which touch my life.
I am to do God's will. If by a definite act I offer myself to an employer for service it is mere honesty for me to proceed daily and faithfully to do that which I have yielded myself to do. And what but this is my surrender to God? It is (see Chapter I.) "the voluntary offering of ourselves to God to do His will instead of our own." This is what I yield myself to do. Therefore let me do it. Nothing else would be fair to man. Surely naught else is fair to God. To accept, submit to, and hourly do His will is now to be the one aim and concern of my life. "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me," said the Son. This, too, is our food as well as His: we grow strong upon it; we soon become weak and faint without it. Remembering the lofty life-purpose of the first-born Son, "Lo I come to do Thy will," we too as yielded sons are to keep this ever before us as the supreme single purpose of our earthly life, even as it shall be of our eternal life in the ages to come, "The world passeth away and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever."
1. The Yielded Life.
[Thoughts on the Surrendered Life, suggested by the death of P. Cameron Scott, founder of the African Inland Mission.]
There are times when God speaks in the silence louder than in the message of uttered words. There comes to you to-day a vision of the old farm of by-gone days. You stood by the bars of the harvest field, gazing wistfully into the fading twilight, breathing deep draughts of the cool Summer air heavy with fragrance of the fresh mown hay. Slowly the outcries and clamor of the day gave place to the lowing of cattle, twittering of birds, and rustling of leaves, and then, as those last sweet restrainers of the evening's stillness ceased, there came a silence, voiceless, impressive, intense; without jar, or stir, or stress; and in it God spoke to your listening soul. So here the mightiest message that can come to you will come, not in any tribute of praise, or rush of loving words concerning him whose face and form have vanished from our midst. But it is that message which—when you have laid aside this printed page—in the quiet of your own chamber of prayer; in the stillness of your own heart-communing with God; with the picture of this young, heroic, Christ-like life before your tearful vision, the Holy Ghost Himself shall whisper to your soul:—the silent message of—A Surrendered Life.
"Beloved, now are we the Sons of God." Raised from the dead; set in heavenly places; destined to be throne-mates of Jesus Christ, there is for us here a life of infinite privilege. It is a life of separation and servantship; of peace and power; of conscious communion with, and approval of our God; of unbounded joy and successful service; of triumph over besetting sin; a life rich, blessed, precious, and mighty in Christ Jesus; a life any less than which is too poor for the Spirit born offspring of the God of all grace, glory and power;—the life surrendered to God. Such a yielded life is as normal, natural, and expected by Him, as the unyielded life is an anomaly, astonishment, and grief to His heart. The call of God to His believing children to such a life is universal; not one is exempt; all are saved to serve; all are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works," which God has ordained that we should walk in them; "He died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto Him;" He says to all "I beseech you brethren that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice."
Yet Cameron Scott for several years drifted along upon the listless tide of a shallow Christian life, seemingly without a thought of God's personal claim upon himself. He beheld Christ uplifted to the sinner with burning words of appeal, but no impassioned lips sped to his heart, with earnest beseechings, that supreme message of Christ to His children—a message born of the very travail of His soul—"My child, I want your life" How true this is of myriads of lives today! High crime, or woeful blunder is it in the church of Jesus Christ, wherever she has dared to substitute membership in her body: attendance upon her services: observance of her means of grace: and engagement in her manifold activities, for that absolute surrender of the life and will which alone can satisfy the heart of God who seeks it, and the heart of His child who makes it.
Reader, have you too been for years a child of God, and never yet had this message brought home to your heart and conscience with the conviction, power, and intensity it merits? Or, having heard, do you perchance shrink, and heed not, because it means self-sacrifice, self-crucifixion, the cross of Christ, and, you, say, "I am not ready for this?" Behold the place you take! "I believe in a cross for the remission of sins; but none for the crucifixion of self. A cross for Christ, but none for me! Sins laid on Jesus' body—gladly; but life laid at Jesus' feet—never! For the fainting Christ, a cross naked, cruel, blood-stained; but a cross ornate, flower-bedecked: the gilded apex of a church spire: or the dangling bauble of a woman's necklace, is good enough for me!" Even so may we accept the cross for salvation, but make void the cross for surrender and self crucifixion. Paul saw two crosses: or rather the same cross in a two-fold view. The first, a cross with Christ on it for him (Col. 1:20); the second, a cross on which he hung with Christ (Gal. 2:20). The sinner must needs accept the former: the believer dare not refuse the latter. If he refuse, it is with immeasurable loss, for through this flood-gate alone comes the mighty inrush of peace and power our thirsty souls do covet. Many modern substitutes are there for the old-fashioned way of the cross of self-surrender and self-renunciation, but they land us in the slough of a barren selfishness, instead of in a place of power with God and man. Verily, except the church of Christ preach to the believer the cross of separation and surrender, as faithfully as she preaches to the sinner the cross of salvation, the iron will distil from her blood, the fires quench in her heart, and the power die out apace from her resulting easy, listless, worldly life.
There comes to every believer a time when the Holy Ghost begins to work mightily in his heart to induce this surrender of his life. This, too, is clear from Cameron Scott's experience. Worldly disappointments, baffled plans, sickness and bodily afflictions were used of God to show him the vanity of the world, and beget soul-hunger for a deeper heart-knowledge of the Christ whom he was serving only in name. Again and again did the Spirit move and trouble his heart with the text, "Ye are NOT your own, ye are BOUGHT with a price," until at last he yielded and laid that life at the feet of Him who had bought it with His own blood. Here again does not his life but image that of all God's bought-ones? Has not the Holy Spirit, beloved, patiently and gently thus wrought in your life through many vanished years? Have you not been restless; heart-sick of the world; unsatisfied with your spiritual experience; groping after the fuller, richer life you felt to be your lawful inheritance? Have you not had visions of heights meant for your feet, yet untrod: songs of rejoicing fashioned for your lips, yet unsung: closeness and preciousness of communion with Jesus, yet unrealized: abundance of rich fruitage and joyous service, yet unknown? Has there not been ever cherished within you an ideal which, amid all the debasement of your heavenly citizenship to the dead worldly standard about you, has never faded from your secret soul? And what does it mean? Simply that the Holy Spirit, appointed to take of the things of Christ and show them to you, has been holding up before you a vision of the Christ not only as a Saviour, but as an obedient servant; a world renouncing, self-renouncing God-man; a surrendered Son of God; and has been pleading with you to follow in his footsteps. This is the secret of the mysterious, inner unrest of your soul. It is the Holy Spirit. He is moving you to that advanced step in your Christian life which will flood it with blessing;—the surrender of yourself to Him. And are you still resisting? When Cameron Scott was day and night thus beset by the Holy Ghost with these words, "Ye are not your own," they so troubled his resisting heart that at last he sought to erase the text from his Bible! Beloved, are we resisting the Holy Ghost? Have we not cast out this truth from our lives, which is far worse than erasing it from our Bibles? Has not our gradual and uneasy descent to a lower, more selfish, more worldly place of Christian life, testimony, and service been in the face of earnest protest and pleading from a quiet inward monitor whose voice—known only too well—kept calling us always higher? Let us beware! For "the heart is deceitful, and desperately wicked." Thus resisting we may stand for years upon a threshold of blessing we shall never cross; we may catch glimpses of a promised land here whose joy shall ne'er be ours:
Beyond the billows' foam
We may see the lights of home.
and yet never enter into the haven of rest, peace, privilege, and power which God has prepared even in this life, for them that yield to Him.
Yielding thus to the Holy Ghost, the surrender of the life to God brings untold blessing in its train. So was it with Cameron Scott. He became a transformed man. His lips were touched with divine power; his heart yearned over lost men; his life was lifted from the world plane to the Christ-plane, into the closest sympathy with God's loftiest purpose for the world; his spiritual man grew by leaps and bounds; the Word of God and secret prayer became well-springs of joy; his whole being throbbed and glowed with eager devotion, until at last it burned out its intense life for his Lord and King. And this, too, in a man who had once essayed to erase a consecration text from his testament! Child of God, behold what transformation the grace of God can work in a yielded life, and know assuredly that He stands ready to bring such into yours when surrendered to Him. The power you long for: the separation from the world unto your Lord; the close, conscious communion with Him: the zeal for service and sacrifice: the finding of your own God-ordained place and path of happy service; the joy, and peace, and blessing beyond your fondest dreams—all these will flood your life through the channel of the yielded life. So momentous and fruitful of mighty results in Cameron Scott's view was this definite act of consecration to God that, as it was his favorite message in life, even so in the hour of death, calling about him his fellow workers, he solemnly asked them, "Are your hands off?" And if our vanished friend could speak to us to-day from the glory, his message would be the same. With heart throbbing in unison with his Lord's; with exultant realization that the sufferings of this present time were not worthy to be compared with the glory of his face to face vision of the Son of God; with that infinite belittlement and shrinkage of all things worldly which the first brief instant of a standpoint shifted from earth to heaven would have wrought; he would say to us: "I have been in the presence of the Man who died for us; I have seen His glory; I have gazed upon the pierced side, the wounded hands, the scarred brow; I know now what His love unto death means. Though I should serve Him through countless eternities I can never requite Him; though I had a thousand lives, all should be laid at His feet. Seeing here what He has done for me, to come back to earth and not be a living sacrifice for Him would be agony unutterable. I charge you children of God who still walk the earth, by the unspeakable riches of His love now seen, that you hold not back one ounce of treasure, one jewel of talent, one atom of strength, one moment of time, one throb of love. They here who gave but part, would fain have given all, and they who all have given, would fain have had more to give. Think not that you can give too much for Him. Though every drop of blood were poured forth in costliest libation; though every jot of waning strength were consumed for Him; though every feeble breath were spent in prayer and praise, and preaching of His Word; though every fleeting moment were laid fast hold of for His blessed service; yet all would be but a feeble measure of your love here, when you see Him as He is. 'I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service'"
Again, the life that is yielded to God is in the truest sense a saved life. As the world marks a life of such rare ability, devotion, and loveliness cut off in the very flush and prime of young manhood, it cries out "What a waste!" But therein the world only shows its ignorance of that profound truth of God's spiritual kingdom, that fruitage comes through sacrifice; that the enlargement of the kingdom of God comes not from the lives that are saved, but the lives which—from the world's standpoint—are wasted. God's truth is:—"Whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it." Here is a husbandman with two measures of golden grain. There comes one who says to him, "Do not waste it; save it; care for it; store it against the time of coming famine, when every grain will be precious." He heeds, and treasures it up in the waiting granary. Now comes another, and says: "Take this measure and cast it broadcast into the dark damp earth. Be, prodigal; spare it not; fling it abroad, and leave it to die." This too is heeded, and the careful, frugal world, turning with approval from the plump, well housed, comfortable grains to those that lie scattered, buried, and dying in the earth, cries aghast, "What a waste!" But the months roll on apace, the harvest time is come, and again, as ever, the foolishness of God is wiser than men. In the granary still lies the grain that was saved, not one jot increased, but rather shrunken, and doomed soon to must, shrivel, and decay. But mark the transformed field where the "lost and wasted" once found its lonely grave! In dense, serried array, a countless multitude of speary stalks bend and sway under the weight of golden grain, and wait, with glad expectancy, the harvester's stroke that shall feed them to a starving world. And could your listening ear catch the secret of this miracle of abundance every swaying stalk would whisper to you: "At my feet is a tiny grave; in that grave a grain of wheat once gave up its life; and out from that grave have I sprung up into this hundred fold abundance. Know ye not that 'except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone? But if it die it shall bring forth much fruit.' This is the law of the wheat field."
Child of God, hath not the Master proclaimed this the law of His kingdom? Out from the surrender and death; out from the very toil, hardship and sacrifice; out from the tears, the sufferings, the strong cryings of the yielded life spring God's eternal harvests. Such a life is in the profoundest sense saved for God. But if your life is a selfish one, absorbed in laying up earthly treasures, gratifying earthly ambitions, following worldly pleasures and pursuits, with naught but to eat, drink and take its ease, though your soul were saved, is not your life lost to God? He cannot purify it; empower and inspire it; whisper His secret counsels to it; guide it into the place of blessing and service He has prepared for it in Christ; sow it in the world-field to bring forth bountiful fruitage for time and eternity, if it is not yielded to Him—can He? Is it not lost to Him for this age! So far as it is concerned, is not the accomplishment of His mighty purpose, for this generation in which it lives, baffled and frustrated? Does such a life satisfy you? Does it satisfy Jesus? True you are saved; but are you content to be merely saved "so as by fire?" Do you not long to bear some fruitage for Him? To lay some trophies at His feet? If the yielding of your life—poor requital as it is for His deathless love—is yet a sacrifice of sweet savor to Him, will you not heed His gentle entreatings?
"Brethren, the time is short; it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it; for the fashion of this world passeth away." The Lord is at hand. The tremulous veil that hangs between time and eternity, between mortality and glory, is swaying with the very breath of the Presence of the Coming One. If He should come to-night and snatch you into the glory, not a surrendered servant with "hands off," but a busy worldling with hands still marred with the indent of your desperate clutch upon worldly baubles, and lips still ajar with your latest refusal to His beseechings for your yielded life, would you not be "ashamed before Him at His coming?" Are you still vacillating: still compromising: still in fleshy dalliance with the world? Has the glitter of earth's vain trifles not yet faded before the vision of the Crucified? Has your heart not yet cried out "O Galilean, Thou hast conquered!" May you clutch earthly prizes, and gain the heavenly ones too? Can you walk in the flesh, and walk with Him too? Dare you pursue the same pleasures, lust after the same riches, serve the same master as the avowed worldling? Beloved, yield, yield thyself to Him. Else that solemn trust of a human life which he has given thee to live, and live but once, will, like the feathered arrow, soon have sped, and fall aimless and broken at the feet of Him who would have made it the choicest weapon in His quiver for mighty and victorious warfare, if thou hadst but yielded it to Him.
"Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."—Ps. 37:5.
We have seen that the gist of the truth concerning surrender is found in Paul's terse sentence "Yield yourselves unto God." This single word "yourselves" sweeps in the whole scope of our lives, from horizon to horizon. It is the descriptive word of a quitclaim deed which transfers forever to God all we are and all we have. Let us, reflecting upon its all-inclusiveness, notice that it beseeches us to yield unto God:—.
I. Our ALL, in committal. God would not only have us yield all that we are to His service, but all that we have to His keeping. He would have His yielded children to be at perfect rest and peace concerning all the varied interests of their lives. He would have them "anxious in nothing:" "casting all their care upon Him:" "kept in perfect peace" because they trust in Him. Essential to this is the great lesson of committal. For perfect peace has its human condition in a perfect committal. This would He have us fulfil that He may show His perfect power to keep. Suppose, by way of illustration, you own a rare and precious diamond. It has newly come into your possession as an heirloom from a departed loved one. By and by, as you come to realize the priceless worth of the gem, you begin to be burdened with anxious care in the keeping of it. Every noise at night startles you: every daily narrative of theft or burglary fills your heart with fear: every passing week but increases the burden of your care and disquietude concerning this treasure. But at last a sympathetic friend who knows your sad plight approaches you some day with this timely suggestion: "Friend" says he, "your heart is burdened with care in the matter of this jewel because you yourself are keeping it. And that heart will continue to be burdened so long as you continue to keep it. Do you not know that at a certain site in your town stands a strong trust building to which you may commit the keeping of your gem and be at perfect rest concerning it?" Impelled by these words you go down town to the spot named. You walk around the great building, noting its massive walls, strong doors, and barred and bolted windows. You go inside and scrutinize closely the great vault: the time lock with its marvelous mechanism: the complicated lock-boxes for the keeping of treasures. Perfectly satisfied, you commit your diamond to the cashier, see him deposit it, and close the steel doors, locking and double-locking them against all intruders. And now something has happened to the jewel. You have committed it to a place which is able to keep it against all intrusion. But something has happened to you too. For you find yourself at perfect peace about your treasure. The thief may prowl about your mansion, break your bolts and bars, yea, even enter your home. But he can not disturb your peace concerning the now committed jewel. Whenever you think of the diamond you think of the strong trust-building which now securely keeps it, and straightway you are at rest. At rest indeed concerning your diamond. But there is still another lesson for you to learn. For you own a valuable watch which is yet in your keeping. Concerning this you still bear this same strain of anxious care until your friend comes again and, telling you that they also keep watches in the same trust-building, advises you to commit yours to its secure keeping. This you do and peace comes concerning the committed watch. And now as you continue to worry over your stocks, and bonds, and other valuables, your friend comes at the last and tells you that you need have no care at all concerning anything. "For," says he, "they keep in that trust-building not only diamonds and watches, but stocks, bonds, mortgages, securities, leases and deeds; in short, all the personal valuables you own. Now if you will just make a complete committal, you will have complete peace." Whereupon you gather up everything you possess and sweepingly commit the whole of it to that trust-building which has already won your confidence by its safe keeping of your first and rarest treasure, and then you come into perfect rest because of your perfect committal to a perfect trustee.
Children of God is not the truth very plain here? And does it not convict our hearts? There was a time in your life when you were sore burdened in the effort to keep the rarest jewel in existence—that of your own soul. After years of self-effort, self-righteousness, and agonizing struggle you gave up the effort and simply and trustfully threw yourself upon Jesus Christ, looking to Him in helpless trust to keep that which you had committed to Him. Wherefore for years you have been at rest concerning the keeping of this priceless jewel of your own soul, for you know whom you have believed and are persuaded that He is able to keep that which you have committed to Him. Yet though at peace concerning your soul's salvation, your life is burdened with anxious care about a host of other things. You are anxious about your business, your health, your loved ones, your future, your friends, your service and ministry for Him, and your numberless other interests. Has it never dawned upon you that just as you committed your soul to Jesus Christ so He would have you commit every thing else to Him? Have you never learned that only a perfect committal will give you a perfect peace? Have you never seen that the blessed Lord is lovingly and tenderly interested in every detail of your life, and would have you commit all to Him, even as you committed the keeping of your soul?
For care is linked with keeping. He who keeps the treasure bears the care. Thus if we try to keep our lives we bear the care. But if we commit them and all their interests to God He bears it. Yet how can God keep that which we do not commit? "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep"—what? That which I keep myself? That which I insist upon carrying, managing, and worrying over? Nay "that which I have committed unto Him " "Casting all your care upon Him" is as true for us as "for He careth for you" is true of Him. Wherefore, beloved, is there anything in your life that has long been haunting shadow of care, a burden of anxiety, a barrier between you and perfect peace? If so, then search your heart and see if this be not the explanation of it. Take it, and definitely, finally, and irrevocably commit it to God. How else can He possibly keep it? Is this not the secret of your failure? There is nothing wrong with the trust-building! You are sure of that. "He abideth faithful " It must be in your failure to commit, for He has never since the world began failed to keep that which has been committed to Him. Wherefore if there be lack of perfect peace in your life hasten to make that perfect committal which will permit a perfect Christ to prove His perfect keeping.
2. Our Wills, in submittal. Not only are we to commit our life to God, but also to let Him have His way with it. With the committal of all things should go submission in all things. When we yield our lives we yield our plans concerning those lives, and accept God's dealings with them. Not only "commit your way unto the Lord," but "trust also in Him." Not only take your hands off but let Him put His hands on just as He may see fit. Many of us err here. We commit the clay into the potter's hand, but we will not stay under that hand. We commit the marble to the divine sculptor, but we do not relish His use of the chisel. We commit our ship to the broad ocean of His will and purpose, but we do not like His grasp upon the helm. Wherefore when the potter begins to mould with pressure that is painful to us: the sculptor to smite and chisel until it hurts: or the helmsman to steer into the teeth of storm, gloom, and tempest that chill our hearts with fear, we would fain shrink from the pressure, the blow, the unknown path which we had not included in our plan for life.
But this we may not do. For God alone knows the very best for the life that has been placed in His hands. He alone sees the preparation it needs for an eternal existence hereafter. We know but a brief share of its present. He knows its end "from the beginning." He alone knows how to shape it to His perfect purpose. He knows what will best work out its eternal weight of glory in the ages to come. But to do this, He needs a submitted will. He cannot work the wish of His Father-heart for us if we shrink, waver, and rebel under our new and unexpected treatment. The "Commit" that puts all into His hands needs the "Trust also" that keeps all things under His hand. Therefore let us not only sweepingly commit to God's keeping, but trustfully submit to God's chastening. Let us not only give ourselves into His hand, but also stay under His hand as He deals out to us that which is best from His standpoint, however grievous it may be from ours. As we deliberately and irrevocably commit all unto His keeping, let us say to Him: "Lord, this life which I now yield to Thee, I know not what is best for it, but Thou dost. While I carried out my own will concerning it, I found naught but failure, mistake, fruitlessness, disappointment. Now, yielding it to thee, I submit also to Thy will concerning it. As Thou mayest see fit, send prosperity or adversity: rest or toil: service or suffering: abasement or exaltation: crucifixion or glorification: the starlit night of faith or the meridian blaze of Thy conscious fullness. Stay not Thine hand: spare not the chastening fires: cool not the furnace of crucible until Thou hast had Thy perfect way with me. By Thy grace I will walk with Thee, though the path be not of my choosing. I will trust Thee when I can not see Thee. I will submit to Thee when I can not understand Thee. Yea, I yield myself wholly, absolutely, irrevocably, in humble, trustful submission, to Thy blessed will."
It will help us much in so coming into a place of perfect submissiveness to God's will if we ponder carefully a few self-evident truths. They are these. Our God is a God of tender, compassionate, unchangeable, and limitless Love. And the GOD OF LIMITLESS LOVE is worthy OF LIMITLESS TRUST. If these be not truths then there is no truth in the universe! If the Man who died for us does not perfectly love us, and is not worthy of unconditional, boundless trust, then is the gospel of the grace of God a fable, and the faith of His redeemed ones but the flimsy fabric of a dream. And if the God of limitless love is worthy of limitless trust shall we not accord it to Him, or else stand condemned in our own hearts? Let us be honest. Which is the troubler of our soul? Do we doubt God's perfect love and consequent perfect trustworthiness? If so let us confess that with secret shame. Do we believe in God's perfect love and perfect faithfulness? Then let us yield Him that perfect trust and submissiveness which such belief has a right to claim.
Moreover if God is Love His will is the most perfect thing in the universe for us, His children. The Holy Ghost says it is a "perfect will." (Rom. 12:2.) He does not say that we always see it to be perfect, but that it is perfect. Therefore it is as perfect when we cannot understand it as when we can; as perfect when it seems unjust and grievous to us, as when it seems just and acceptable; as perfect when the way is rough, toilsome, and shrouded in thick darkness, as when it is smooth, easy of ascent, and flooded with noon-day light. The question that comes to us should be:—Is, or is not the will of God, who is incarnate Love, the best thing in the world for us? If it is, then let us either yield to it, or confess that we do not care to so do. And yielding ourselves because it is good and perfect do not let us draw back when it seems to be otherwise. So to do is to dethrone Faith and enthrone our poor judgment in her stead.
Finally, the God who is Love is also supreme. Therefore everything which comes into our lives is either sent by him or permitted by Him. Reason grows dizzy and staggers at this, but faith calmly and trustfully accepts it as an eternal truth. For God himself declares it. "All things work together for good to them that love Him." Not that all things are good in themselves: for evil is not good. But all things work together for good to them that love Him. In some way God will make even the wrath of man to praise Him. In some way the God who rules in righteousness will over-rule all unrighteousness. In some way even the evil that assails His children is, by the time it reaches them, in His permissive will for them. This is inscrutable to us now. But faith bows under His hand and joyfully accepts His assurance "What I do thou knowest not now but thou shalt know hereafter!" "You meant it for evil but God meant it for good," said the sobbing Joseph to his awe-stricken brethren. The blackest crime of human history was the crucifixion of Him who was that Joseph's great anti-type. It seemed the master-stroke of Hell: the final extinguishment of the light of the world: the utter defeat of the God of the universe. Yet out of it flowed the blessings of a redemption which shall glorify God through all the ages of eternity. "O, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Beloved, that God is love: that as such He is worthy of absolute trust: that His will must be the best thing in existence for us: and that all which comes to us is either sent or suffered to come, by Him—these are great foundation stones of "the truth as it is in Christ Jesus." Have we forever settled down upon them? In the full light of them an absolute submission to the will of the Christ of love is not only intelligent and reasonable, but will bring us into a place where His eternal peace can keep our hearts beyond all our fondest dreams.
In attestation of these truths is recalled here the remarkable experience of a child of God, narrated to the writer from her own lips. Earnestly longing and seeking for years to know the truth of the fullness of life in Christ she came one day into a Bible class in an interior city of this state. There as she sat eagerly drinking in the truth, God sent to her hungry heart the message it had long needed. She learned that the Spirit whom she had been beseeching for years to enter had already come in to abide forever. She saw that what God wanted was not long and agonizing waiting and petition for His incoming, but an absolute submission of the will in all things and for all time to Him who was already indwelling. And so one bright Sabbath day rejoicing in the faith of His indwelling, she yielded herself a living sacrifice unto God, in complete and trustful submission to His will whatever it might be. No great manifestation of power followed: no rapturous uplift: no wonderful vision of things of which it was unlawful to speak. But her hitherto restless soul was flooded with peace, the unspeakable peace of the God of peace Himself, filling her soul with His conscious presence in response to the utter yielding of the being to Him. The passing months found that peace still abiding. Through that absolute yielding of herself to His will, God had anchored her soul in a haven of rest by moorings so secure that no storm seemed able to rend them. She was established in Christ Jesus. And now came a test that proved to her forever what God could do with a submitted will and a trustful heart.
"I had a son," said she, "a youth about eighteen years of age. He was a bright, joyous boy: a Christian, but not living as close to God as my heart yearned to see him.—But him, too, as well as all else that I possessed, I had definitely committed to God when I made my surrender. When the adversary tried to break my peace, tempting me to doubt concerning my boy, I simply lifted up my heart and said, 'Lord, I have committed him to Thee; Thy will be done in his life.' One summer night, after he had retired to his room, attracted by the sound of music in a near-by square, he went out, unknown to me, to enjoy it. Strolling up street in company with another lad, these two exchanged some words of boyish badinage with a man standing by, and then passed on. As they passed the corner of an alley farther on, this man stepped out from its shadow and shot my boy dead on the spot. At midnight my doorbell rang, and the policeman, to whom I opened, said: 'Madam, your son is seriously hurt and you are wanted immediately.' I quickly called my husband and other son and hastened up the street, not knowing what was coming. All I remember now of that midnight journey was that as I sped along the silent street I found myself lifting up my heart to God and repeating again and again: 'Lord, I have committed him to Thee: Lord, Thy will be done: They will be done.' When I reached the spot I kneeled by the prostrate form of my boy, touched his face, grasped his hands, and lifted his head, only to find him weltering in a pool of blood, already dead! When the awful fact dawned upon us, my husband fainted, and my other son was well-nigh overcome with grief. But there, in the dead of night, in the awfulest hour of a mother's life, I came to know what God could do with a submissive will and a trustful heart. I would never have thought it possible for God to keep a weak, trembling, stricken soul as He kept me in that dreadful hour. As I knelt by my murdered boy the fountains of grief seemed stayed. Underneath me were unseen, everlasting arms. A flood-tide of unutterable peace swept into my soul, and brooded over my stilled heart with an eternal calm that nothing in the universe, it seemed, could ever disturb. When the day dawned men and women flocked into my house and cried, 'What kind of a woman are you? What do you mean? How do you explain this strange calm that seems to possess you?' and I could only answer—'It is not I, but Christ, Christ!'"
Troubled one, is the way gloomy, and does God seem harsh and unloving in the inscrutable trials and afflictions that He has permitted to come into your life, even though He himself has not directly sent them? Does the burden seem more than you can bear? The trial so peculiar that the darkness can never be dispelled? The grief too agonizing ever to be soothed? The wound too deep ever to be healed? Then remember this: only through perfect submissiveness and perfect trustfulness can God have His perfect way in our lives. Do we want Him to have that way and carry out His highest purpose for us? Then no affliction is too grievous, no furnace too hot, no price too costly in comparison with the infinite blessedness which comes with entire submission, and unconditional trust in Him. Since this is the sole condition by which God can perfectly work through us, it must be the supreme one He would have wrought in us. Well is it for us that He will not even stop short of suffering in order to accomplish it. Here it is that divine fatherhood overtops human. For human parents through sympathy may spare us suffering. But in the light of eternity the highest exhibit of God's Father love will be seen in His refusal to spare us our deepest suffering because in so doing we would have missed our highest good.
3. The Believer's Gift to God.
"They...first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God." 2 Cor. 8:5.
This verse is rich in its treasures of truth. As the rose opens its petals under the morning sunlight, so does the quartet of truths in this passage unfold under the light of the Holy Spirit. These truths are:
"They first gave their own selves to the Lord."
In the fashioning and keeping of our own lives there are no hands so safe as God's. He has planned those lives in Christ Jesus from before the ages. He knows their strength and their weakness; He knows how to mould them to a nicety to their destined end; He knows the place which He has prepared for them; He knows the preparation needed for that place; He knows their limitations and their possibilities; He knows how they can be best made to so glorify Him and advance His kingdom here as that their influence shall last through all eternity. And so, knowing this, the Macedonians did not take these lives and try to fashion them after their own individual desires and plans, and then, after years of disappointment and failure, hand the fragments over to God for Him to use. But they first gave their own lives into God's hands before the mistakes of their own hands marred them.
Well do we recall the hour of crisis in the life of a dear young friend but a few years ago. Bright, winsome, gifted: of pure heart, lofty ideal and knightly life, he stood at the parting of the ways. One was the way of a secular calling, with all its glittering prizes and gratified ambitions. The other was the way of abandonment to the Lord with all the sacrifice, service, and surrender involved therein. There in his own room, with the bright sunshine streaming through the window and falling upon his bowed form, young Hugh Beaver chose the latter and first gave his own self to the Lord.
But three short years elapsed when we stood by his coffin and looked into his sweet face, pale and rigid in death. As we thought of his beautiful life as a servant of his Lord; of his power in prayer; of his great influence over the young men of the colleges; and of the close and climax of his ministry at Northfield, when hundreds of cultured college women sat at the feet of this young teacher with their lives stirred to their innermost depths by the power of God's Spirit through him, there came to us the overwhelming realization of what a calamity it would have been had this young life, with but three years of span before it, been given to the world, instead of to God for the world, and there in that solemn hour we realized the need that God's children "first give their own selves to Him."
What costly mistakes we make here. This life, which we shall live but once; this life, with which every unsuccessful experiment means eternal loss; this life, the most solemn and precious trust that can be put into human keeping—we dare to lay our hands upon, and abase it from God's eternal destiny to our own selfish ends. The unskilled child essays to run the delicate and costly mechanism of a great locomotive, of whose power and possibilities the child knows absolutely naught. There is but one result. The great machine "runs wild," and wreck and ruin follow its unguided flight. Even so are we who lay our hands upon these lives of ours, regardless of our Lord's claim upon them.. Sad wreck do we make of them. Disappointments, baffled plans, darkness, clouding of God's presence, suffering, break-downs,—bodily, mental and spiritual,—and utter failure are the woeful results. And then after years of disappointment and failure, we hand over to God the marred remnant for Him to use.
And yet even then how good our Lord is! How great His grace; how tender His love! Without a word of chiding or a whisper of reproach, He deigns to take what is left. He puts the past under the blood. He glorifies Himself unspeakably with the yielded remnant, using it as best He can. Withal, while this is His second best for us; while, mayhap, these years of disappointment and affliction were His only means of bringing us to Himself, let us ever remember that His best is always that, like the Macedonians, we "first give our own selves to the Lord," and then to the life work which has been ordained for us "by the will of God."
"Be ye transformed"—Rom. 12:2.
With the Macedonians, as with all of God's children, after dedication came transformation. When they gave their lives into the hands of God they were filled with the Spirit of God. We need not read very far between the lines to discern this second great truth of our text. Mark the words of fullness and of transformation: "abundance"— "joy"—"abounded"—"riches"—"liberality"—"beyond their power"— "they were willing," and the like.
How clear it is, and how consistent with the love of God, the will of God and the Word of God, that all His children, like the Macedonians, should live a life of fulness; that they who receive the Spirit in regeneration should be filled with the Spirit at dedication. The Word of God abounds in texts that prove God's will of fullness for His children. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst...for they shall be filled;" "Be filled with the Spirit;" "And of His fullness have all we received;" "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost;" "That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God." So, too, our Lord says, "I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly;" "The water that I will give you shall be in you a well of water springing up into everlasting life." So, too, in Acts 2:17, the Holy Ghost says through Peter, "I will pour out of my Spirit." God's will of life in Christ for us is not stint but abundance; not poverty, but riches; not weakness, but power; not scantiness, but fullness. As the mountain spring pours out its cooling streams; as the great pipe organ pours out its flood of melody; as the willing heavens pour out their showers of refreshing, so it is God's will to pour out the fullness of His Spirit upon His children. But mark upon whom that fullness comes (verse 18.) "I will pour out my Spirit upon my servants, i.e., my bondslaves;" upon His slaves; His bond slaves; His servants who are wholly dedicated to Him, who are wholly given up to do His will; upon these not only does the Spirit come, but He is poured out in all His fullness of life and light and power. Upon our Lord Jesus, God poured out the Spirit "without measure." But of His fullness do we all receive, if not in degree, yet surely in kind, if we first give ourselves wholly to God; if we say, "Lo, I come to do Thy will,'' even as He did.
Two men were walking by the banks of a river at the twilight hour. One of them, quoting the words of a famous Christian worker, said: "The world has yet to see what God can do with one man wholly dedicated to Him." His companion stopped and said: "Say that again." Again his friend repeated with renewed emphasis: "The world has yet to see what God can do with one man wholly dedicated to Him." Lifting his hand in the twilight Dwight L. Moody, for it was he, said: "By the grace of God, I will be that man." And he went forth to do a work for God and His kingdom such as has been given to but few of His servants. Here was the hiding of the great evangelist's power. Wholly dedicated to the will of God he was transformed and filled by the Spirit of God, and went forth to do the work of God. "God's man, in God's place, doing God's work, in God's way," are the significant words of Hudson Taylor as to the place for the life of every true servant of God.
Mr. Meyer, too, tells of the time in his own life when young Mr. Studd was used of God to bring home this same truth to himself. He tells of his own heart hunger for a deeper life in Christ, and how the young Cambridge student pressed upon him the duty and the privilege of a complete dedication of his life to the Lord, and of a simple and absolute trust in the Spirit of his Lord to transform him and fill him, and work perfectly and completely through him. His own will for his servant's life of ministry in Him. And then the great London preacher tells how he went forth into a little woodland copse; how he knelt there in the hush of nature's own sanctuary; how he simply and trustfully yielded his life to God, and went forth believing that His Spirit was in him, and trusting Him henceforth to will and to do of His good pleasure through him. No great manifestation followed this simple step of faith and obedience. No ecstatic spiritual experience flooded his soul. But from that time he realized the presence and power of God within him, and was ushered into the fullness of his wonderful life of power and service for Him. Transformation followed dedication. Fullness followed the faith of surrender. Abandonment to God brought the rich and blessed ministry of God which has made the name of this consecrated servant a sweet savor of peace and blessing to multitudes of God's seeking children.
"Young men," said the saintly missionary, George Bowen, as he stood before his students in the class-room, "young men, the Spiritual presence of Jesus Christ in my heart is more real than the bodily presence of you who sit before me this morning." Is the presence of Christ as real to us in the Spirit as it was to this godly servant of the Lord? Is He just as real to us as men and things are? Does His life fill us as the self life fills the worldling? And if not, why not? Our Lord Himself in John 14:21 discloses the open secret of His own abundant life. There He distinctly says "I will manifest myself to you." It is His plan, His desire, His full purpose, to fill all His children with His own fullness of life. And what is the secret? "He that keepeth my commandments I will manifest myself to him." "And this is my commandment: "That you love one another." "And greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." The greatest commandment of Christ is love—love of others. Therefore he who keeps His greatest commandment will have His greatest manifestation. But the climax of love is the laying down of our lives even as He laid down His. Therefore the climax of that manifestation is this dedication of the life to Him. As we perfect our dedication in the ever-widening revelation of the will of God, He perfects His manifestation in the ever increasing fullness of the Spirit of God. In the measure that we live in His will in that measure will we be filled with His life. We thus have His greatest manifestation in proportion as we keep His greatest commandment. As we approximate the one we approach the other; as we fulfill the one we are filled with the other. Because we save our own life we lose the fullness of the Christ life. But as we give up our own life we gain His Divine life. The Macedonians had learned this secret. May our Lord help us to learn it also.
"First * unto the Lord * * and then * * the will of God"
After they had yielded themselves to God, they saw the will of God, for their lives. This is ever true of all His children. After dedication, transformation; after transformation, revelation. Dedication brings fullness of life. In its wake comes fullness of light. It is not the dull intellect but the rebellious or unyielding will which keeps us from the light of God's plan for our lives.
God has a plan for every life in His Kingdom. In Ephesians 2:10 He tells us that we are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." For Christ Jesus, His Son, God had a perfect plan from before the foundation of the ages. He knew that plan; He yielded Himself to it; and he walked in it, not only day by day, but hour by hour of His earthly career. "Are there not twelve hours in the day?" said our Lord, thus showing that not only was His life meted out to Him day by day by the Father, but that each hour coming to Him was part of a perfect plan for His life, extending even to the minutest detail. But if God had a perfect plan for Christ Jesus, our Lord, so also has He for every one who at regeneration is created in Christ Jesus. If there is a plan for the Divine Head of the body, so there must needs be one for each member of that body. And such, by God's grace, are we. Wherefore from the eternal ages the Divine Architect has laid up in the archives of heaven a perfect plan for the life of every child of His, from its beginning through its eternal and unending existence in the ages to come. "In all the ages there never has been, nor never will be a man or woman just like me. I am unique. I have no double." How true is this for you who are a child of God. God has a fresh life plan for you, distinct from every other human being in the universe. No man or woman in existence can do your God-ordained work. There will be something missing from the glory of heaven, something lacking from its fruitage, if you do not find and walk in that Divinely created plan in Christ Jesus for your life. Why then are so many of God's children ignorant of such plan? Why are they in darkness concerning His will? Why have they never seen the good works in which they are to walk? We answer with an illustration. Imagine a man coming to a great industrial establishment in search of employment. He seats himself on the curb-stone across the street. All through the morning hours he loiters there. Then at high noon he approaches the superintendent of the works and begins to complain because he has not been shown the work he is to do. Very soon would the superintendent of such an establishment inform the loiterer that as soon as he would come and offer himself, his time, skill, and talents to his employer, then would the latter show him what work he had for him to do. "For," says the superintendent, "we do not show our plans, nor assign our work to a man until he comes and places himself at our disposal. Until that time, sir, you cannot expect us to show you what work we have for you." Is not this the open secret of the failure of many of God's children to know His will for their lives? So long as they remain unyielding to Him, not offering themselves for His service, He does not, nor could He reasonably be expected to reveal the work He has for them in His vineyard. But as soon as they present their bodies a living sacrifice, placing will, time, talent and skill all at His disposal, to be used for His glory, He is only too glad to disclose His own loving plan of ministry for the life offered to Him. "If any man will to do my will he shall know."
"First unto the Lord, and then unto us."
To every dedicated child of His, God not only reveals His plan for their life, hut also leads them into the doing of it, usually by some seemingly insignificant beginning. This was true for the Macedonians. First, unto the Lord—the person to whom they gave themselves; then, unto us, the thing which He showed them to do, in this case a simple ministering to the needs of His saints. This is likewise true for all of us. Note the case of Paul: First there was the query of dedication: "Who art thou;" and the answer—"I am Jesus, I am thy Lord." Then came the query of ministration—"What wilt thou have me to do." And then the answer, a command to do a very simple thing, "Arise, go into the city and it shall he shown thee what thou shalt do."
Take again the example of David. Picture the prophet coming into the home of the shepherd lad to anoint him as the king of a great nation. What a wonderful honor for one so young, to be called from the obscurity of his humble occupation to become the head of his people. As the prophet's hand was laid upon him; as the anointing of oil touched his bowed head; as the consciousness of the presence of God's Spirit in new power and blessedness thrilled his heart, what a great and solemn moment it must have been for the young David. A moment of dedication, of transformation, of revelation, of God's wondrous, gracious, and, to him, astounding purpose for his life. And yet as the days and weeks rolled on there came no great change in the environment of that life. There was no great vision; no voice from heaven; no burning bush. We can imagine him communing with himself. "Is this a reality? Am I in very truth the King of Israel? Why does not God take me hence? Why does He not put me upon my appointed throne? Why am I kept waiting here?' And then something happened. The shepherd lad was called to carry the needed supplies to his warrior brothers. How insignificant and commonplace seems this incident. Yet out of it God led him to his destined place. It was the first step in the golden stair-case which led upward to a kingly throne. He met his brethren; he heard the boastful challenge of the giant; his heart was mightily moved by the Spirit of God, and we know what followed.
Even so is it with us. We give our lives to God in dedication. Peace, power, and blessing inflow. But no great change meets us at once. Still we keep the sheep; we follow the plough; we sit at the desk; we pursue our daily task as of old. We wonder what it all means. Has God really a work for us? Will He really show it to us? Will He lead us into it? And now something happens to us, even as to David. A door of service opens. Perhaps but a modest door, a little wicket gate, as it were, of ministry. It may be a call to teach a class; to lead a meeting; to fill some humble place of service for the Lord. But now, as it comes, there is a new drawing in our heart to do this thing. There is a consciousness of God's call to it, however humble. There is a feeling that it has more significance in our lives than its humbleness would indicate. And so we obey. God blesses our obedience. We follow on and on. Opportunities multiply; the blessing grows; fruitage follows; the joy of service is with us and by and by we awake to the glad consciousness that God is leading us into our life work.
From The Surrendered Life: Bible Studies and Addresses on The Yielded Life by James H. McConkey. 1st. ed. Harrisburg: PA: Published by Fred Kelker, 1903.