Confidence, May-June 1917.
Preached at Bowland Street Mission, March 1917.
“Being begotten again unto a living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
In 1 Corinthians 15, we read of the glorious fact of Christ the first-fruits. A farmer goes over his land eagerly scanning the first ears of corn that show themselves above the soil because he knows, as the first beginnings, so may the harvest be. And just in the measure as Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, so are we. As he is, so are we in this world. Christ is now getting the church ready for translation. Here, we read in Peter, “We are begotten again into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Oh, to be changed—a living fact in the body. Just as in the flesh Jesus triumphed by the Spirit. Oh, to be like him! What a living hope it is!
Paul and Peter were very little together, but both were inspired to bring before the vision of the church this wonderful truth of the living being changed. If Christ rose not, our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins, it has no foundation. But Christ has risen and become the first-fruits, and we have now the glorious hope that we shall be so changed. We who were not a people are now the people of God. Born out of due time, out of the mire, to be among princes. Beloved, God wants us to see the preciousness of it. It will drive away the dullness of life; it is here set above all other things. Jesus gave all for this treasure. He purchased the field because of the pearl, the pearl of great price —the substratum of humanity. Jesus purchased it, and we are the pearl of great price for all time. Our inheritance is in heaven, and in 1 Thessalonians 4.18, we are told to comfort one another with these words.
What can you have better in the world than the hope that in a little while the change will come? It seems such a short time since I was a boy; in a little while I shall be changed by his grace and be more than a conqueror in an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away. The inheritance is in you, something that is done for you, accomplished by God for you; a work of God wrought out for us by himself, an inheritance incorruptible. When my daughter was in Africa she often wrote of things “corroding.” We have a corruptible nature, but, as the natural decays, the spiritual man is at work. As the corruptible is doing its work we are changing.
When will it be seen? When Jesus comes. Most beautiful of all, we shall be like him. What is the process? Grace! What can work it out? Love! Love! Love! It cannot be rendered in human phrases. God so loved that he gave Jesus.
There is something very wonderful about being undefiled, there in the presence of my king to be undefiled, never to change, only to be more beautiful. Unless we know something about grace and the omnipotence of his love, we should never be able to grasp it. Love, fathomless as the sea. Grace flowing for you and for me.
He has prepared a place for us, a place which will fit in beautifully, with no fear of anyone else taking it; reserved. When I went to a certain meeting I had a seat reserved and numbered. I could walk in any time. What is there in the reserving? Having a place where we can see him; the very seat we would have chosen. He knows just what we want! There will be no brokenness or jar or wish to have come sooner. He has made us for the place. The beginning of all joys. He loved me so; no jar throughout all eternity. Will you be there? Is it possible for us to miss it? We are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
What is there peculiar about it? The fullness of perfection, the ideal of love—the beatitudes worked in. The poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful, the pure —all ready to be revealed at the appearing of Jesus Christ. You could not remain there but for the purifying, the perfecting, the establishing; working out his perfect will when ready! Refined enough, you will go. But there is something to be done yet to establish you, to make you purer. A great price has been paid. The trial of your faith is more precious than gold that perisheth. Men are losing their heads for gold. And we must give all, yield all, as our Great Refiner puts us again and again in the melting pot; what for? To lose the chaff, that the pure gold of his presence is so clearly seen and His glorious image reflected. From glory to glory even by the Spirit of the Lord. We must be steadfast, immovable, until all his purposes are wrought out.
Praising God on this line in a meeting is a different thing to the time when you are faced with a hard career: there must be no perishing though we are tried by fire. What is going to appear at the appearing of Jesus? Faith! Faith! The establishing of your heart by the grace of the Spirit, not to crush, but to refine; not to destroy, but to enlarge you. Oh, beloved, to make you know the enemy as a defeated foe, and Jesus not only conquering but displaying the spoils of conquest. The pure in heart shall see God. If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. What is it? Loyalty to the word by the power of the blood. You know your inheritance within you is more powerful than all that is without. How many have gone to the stake and through fiery persecution? Did they desire it? Faith tried by fire had power to stand all ridicule, all slander. The faith of the Son of God who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross. Oh, the joy bf pleasing him. No trial, no darkness; nothing too hard for me. If only I may see the image of my Lord in it again and again. He removes the skimmings until in the melting pot his face is seen. When it reflects Him, it is pure. Who is looking into our hearts? Who is the refiner? My Lord. He will only remove that which will hinder. Oh, I know the love of God is working out in my heart a great purpose of reality.
I remember going to the Crystal Palace when General [William] Booth had a review of representatives of the Salvation Army from all nations. It was a grand sight as company after company with all their peculiar characteristics passed a certain place where he could view them. It was a wonderful scene. We are going to be presented to him. The trials are getting us ready for the procession and the presentation. We are to be a joy to look at, to be to his praise and glory. No one will be there but the tried by fire. Is it worth it? Yes, a thousand times. Oh, the ecstasy of exalted pleasure. A God thus reveals himself to our hearts.
Verse 22 speaks of unfeigned faith and unfeigned love. What it means to have unfeigned faith! When ill-used, put to shame, or whatever the process, it never alters, only to be more refined, more like unto him. Unfeigned love full of appreciation for those who do not see eye to eye with you. “Father, forgive them.” Remember Stephen: “Lay not this sin to their charge.” Unfeigned love is the greatest thing God can bestow on my heart.
Verse 23 shows we are saved by a power incorruptible —a process always refining, a grace always enlarging, a glory always increasing, thus we are made neither barren nor unfruitful, in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The spirits of just men made perfect are garnered in the treasury of the Most High. Purified as sons. To go out no more. To be as he is—holy, blameless. Through all eternity to gaze upon him with pure, unfeigned love. God glorified in the midst, as the whole company of heaven cry out: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.” Verse 35: And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
How can we be sad, or hang our heads or be distressed? Oh, if we only knew how rich we are! Blessed be the name of the Lord.