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The Heavenly One, The Heavenly Family and the Heavenly Life
1. The Heavenly One “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven” (or as it should literally read “out of heaven”) (1 Cor. 15:47). Reader, what do these words convey to your heart and mind? Have you ever weighed the contrast they set forth? the contrast between the life that man after the flesh can live at his best, and the wonder of the life that was expressed in the perfect manhood of the Lord Jesus. That life, though lived in the earthly circumstances in which other men moved, was absolutely different in its source and moral character, its purpose and relationships, from every man of Adam’s race. All they were earthly, speaking of the earth, and in their highest and best thoughts never able to rise above it; but He, although born of a woman, and hence as really and truly man as He was the eternal Son of the ever-living God, was not of Adam’s descent or of Adam’s character. All that His humanity displayed was out of heaven. In humble dependence upon the Spirit of God, may we reverently inquire what these things mean. Life Life, like those other associated words, love and light, is beyond the power of final human definition. Its manifestations may be described, its powers, its relationships, occupations and objects may be presented to our gaze, but it is beyond the measure of man’s limitation to fully analyse what it is in itself. If this is so in regard to life as we know it, in its various forms on earth, how much more so when we consider life as it relates to heaven. In the first place, that which is heavenly cannot be grasped or understood by earthly capacity. Only the Spirit of God can illuminate the inspired scriptures and lead our souls into the appreciation of the life of Him whom to know is life eternal. This is evident from the fact that when He was here, heaven was appreciative but earth was silent; all on high were filled with joy, but men saw no beauty that they should desire Him; the Father’s voice told forth His delight, but His own people received Him not. Only those whose ears and eyes were opened by divine grace, heard, saw, contemplated, handled the Word of life, and received the manifestation of that eternal life which was with the Father. Life was in Him, and the life was the light of men. Heaven was His home, and when He came to earth He brought here the atmosphere of that place. As men on their travels carry with them the character of the land to which they belong, their mother country, and in other lands are strangers and foreigners, so our Lord was in every sense a heavenly stranger on earth, and His life bore witness of the home from which He came, the Son of man which is in heaven. He tabernacled amongst men whose homes were here, He moved on His way a homeless stranger. Not for Him the plans and schemes of earth’s monarchs and peoples; not for Him to govern the land of His pilgrimage; not for Him to divide the inheritance of the nations. He neither made the crooked ways straight, nor the rough places plain. At another time He will do all these things, but on the occasion of His sojourn here He was a wayfaring man upon a journey to a kingdom which lay beyond. Man had no welcome for such an one, the world took no account of Him. Relationship The relationships of His life were in heaven. His conditions were altered but the love of the Father in which He abode was the same as it had been before the world’s foundation. For all who had eyes to see, there was unfolded to their gaze such a life as was with the Father; they beheld His glory as of an only begotten with a Father—a life lived in unclouded heavenly light, in the love of joy, in the peace of communion with all that was above.
Character What character this gave to all His ways! Truth, absolute truth, marked Him, for His vision was not clouded by the mists of earth; the truth of things concerning God and man as they are viewed from heaven was His standpoint. At the same time grace and compassion and tenderness were there for the poor slaves of Satan, who had no strength to free themselves and were too blind to see the glory of the light which was shining in their midst. Under such conditions love and sorrow go hand in hand. The deeper the love that would draw its objects into its own blessedness, the deeper the sorrow when that love is rejected and its offers treated with contumely. How many an earthly love has broken down when thus refused, but His was heavenly and it was perfect; and with love that was never quenched He went on His way, until at last the supreme moment came, and in the fullest expression of love, He gave Himself, the just for the unjust. Motive Then how far removed from the motives begotten of earth, and which centre in self, were the governing principles of that perfect life. Men seek to possess that they may enrich themselves. He came to give, not to be ministered unto but to minister, not to be served, but to serve. Poorer in circumstance than the creatures He had made, He possessed no place to lay His head, and yet in the consciousness of Heaven’s resources could say, “The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Resource Nothing so clearly reveals the character of a man’s life as the resource on which he leans. Here was one who leaned wholly on Jehovah and drew all He needed from the supplies of heaven. When some proposed to fight with the sword for His defence, His reply was that twelve legions of angels would immediately be given by the Father, if He should request their aid. Truly He was from above and the springs of His life were there. The Father had sent Him and He lived on account of the Father. Object The objects men pursue by nature must be earthly, for they can neither rise above it nor see beyond it. But our Lord’s vision was bounded by no such limitations. The object of His life was in heaven. “I came not to do mine own will but the will of Him that sent Me,” and this was the food of life which gave energy to all His doings. It distinguished Him from all other men: they might have high and benevolent purposes before them, philanthropic works for the amelioration of the lot of others submerged in the sea of human life, but such objects, even if attained, are confined to the short span of time. He, on the other hand, lived for the glory of God and laboured that men might know Him and find their eternal portion in His love. He viewed eternity from Heaven’s standpoint, and He commended the true philanthropy of God by giving His life a ransom for all, opening in His death the only way through which men can reach God. Teaching In the teaching of life, men’s words and their acts are frequently at variance; our Lord’s words were the exact expression of what He was and His actions never contradicted His speech. His theme was heaven, He testified of that which He had seen and heard. The words of His mouth revealing the Father’s name were as deep waters, and the well-spring of wisdom which flowed from His lips was like a flowing brook, whose source was on high. It was heaven’s music here below, heaven’s thoughts, heaven’s ways, heaven’s love. No wonder that men marvelled at the graciousness of His words, and that His enemies were forced to confess that never man spake like this man.
Destiny Then there was the destiny of His life; He knew whence He came and whither He went. The path of life was not bounded for Him by death, but stretched beyond in resurrection into God’s eternity. Alone He trod the path of life, the corn of wheat from heaven, but He will do more, He will endure the cross and despise the shame, that through His death there may be brought forth fruit after His own order, in His own redeemed, for God. 2. The Heavenly Family “As is the heavenly (one), such are they also that are heavenly.” (1 Cor. 15:48) Who are these of whom the Scripture speaks? Is it possible that any can be compared with the heavenly one, our Lord Jesus Christ? Are any kindred to Him, of His order, partakers of His life? The Word of God is not silent as to these questions, and plainly does it tell of that new race which has been formed, not amongst angels but amongst men. Once they were guilty before God, lost and undone, without hope and without God in the world. Upon such divine grace has wrought, and being born anew by the power of the Holy Spirit, their eyes have been opened to see their lost condition, and to see the Saviour taking upon Himself their judgment when He laid down His life for them on the cross that He might redeem them by His own blood. Through the peerless work of Calvary their past has been blotted out, and a vista of coming glory shines before them. But besides a past settled, and a future secured, they have a present portion in the life of Him who has redeemed them (Rom. 6:8-11; Col. 3:1-4). God has given to them eternal life and this life is in His Son. The basis of all that is wrought in the believer for God’s glory and in testimony to man, lies in the fact that in God’s sight the old Adam life has been ended in judgment at the cross, and that a new life has been given in connection with Christ risen from the dead. This transfer from the old head or source of life to the new is the subject of Romans 5:12-21. In the world a man may be naturalized from one country to another; he takes a new position, comes under a new government, but in his nature he is the same as he was before; English, German, etc., as the case may be. But in divine matters when a man is, so to speak, naturalized from Adam to Christ, he becomes partaker of the nature and life of Christ, he is identified with Him in the likeness of His death, and, also, of His resurrection. Christ died unto sin once, but in that He lives in resurrection, He lives to God; and in consequence the believer is called upon to reckon himself dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. He is to accept this fact, which is true in God’s account, in the same way as he learned the forgiveness of his sins, on the principle of faith. It therefore follows that the Christian will not henceforth be occupied with seeking to improve the old nature, but will rather turn his energies to the cultivation of the new; and still further he will see that it is not his business to improve the world where the Adam life finds its sustenance and home. Like his Master he is a stranger and a foreigner on earth, like Him his path is a journey through it. The life he possesses belongs to heaven, it is supported by heaven’s resources, and is capable of producing the same heavenly fruit which marked in every detail our Lord’s ways. He walked through earth’s changing scenes and circumstances, wholly dependant upon God and obedient to His will, living by every word that proceeded from the mouth of God. In all this He was the pattern for the new life which has its source in Him, for “he that saith he abideth in Him ought himself so to walk even as He walked.” The origin of the Christian’s life is then entirely heavenly, and the relationships that belong to it must be heavenly likewise, for “He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” One in Relationship His own words express it, “I ascend unto My Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” He associates us with the sonship of His own risen manhood, in the fulness of the Father’s love and the
revelation of the Father’s name. It will take little consideration to perceive that sonship such as this must give character to the Christian’s life after a new and heavenly order. To be loved as the Son is loved, and graced in the acceptance of Him upon whom that love rests in its infinite fullness, fills the heart with rest and peace and joy. That love becomes the Christian’s home, and the rock of his strength in a world of sorrow, trial and death. All things else may be moved, but this never; circumstances cannot alter it, nor death separate from it. One in Character Life can only produce fruit after its kind. The characteristics of our Lord’s life were, dependence, obedience and love; all He did was done for God, His thoughts and His words were governed by the word of God. Herein lies the contrast between the natural and earthly, and the spiritual and heavenly. Men do great things from love to their fellows, will lay down their lives for their friends, but not for God. They praise the independence and force of character which will carry them through to the end they seek, but are never found waiting for God. It is not surprising, for how can a nature to which disobedience is natural, obey; or how can that which is not subject to the law of God, neither can be, order its ways according to His word? We may agree that all this is only too true of those who know not God, but the danger is very real, that the Christian may shape his ways according to the principles that are approved amongst men, may so far forget his heavenly life and calling as to join hands with those whose object is the education of man in flesh, and whose schemes are directed to the improvement and peace of this world, which Scripture assures us lieth in the wicked one (1 John 5:19). One in Motive Love was the spring of all that our Lord said and did. And love is the motive that actuates the new life; we love because He first loved us. Love urged Him on through His path of sorrow and grief, to the last great sacrifice, that the world might know that He loved the Father, and it is not the motive of fear or the obedience of legality that marks the true service of His own, but the constraining of love to Him in lowly hidden acts or more exalted deeds. One in Resource The Holy Spirit connects the saint on earth with Christ in glory, and by His supply produces thoughts, affections and desires which have as their object the magnifying of Christ. The believer can and does view things from heaven’s standpoint, and knows that none of the world’s resources are needed to further the development of his life, or advance the work of God. He, like His Master, is a giver to the world, not a receiver from it. His power consists not in having wealth, position, fame or honour, but in having Christ dwelling in the heart by faith, and by being strengthened with all might by the Father’s Spirit in the inner man. One in Object As in the case of our Lord, whose purpose to fulfil the Father’s will flowed from the deep knowledge of His love, so will the fullness of the same love lead the Christian in the same path of His will. It will increasingly become his desire to know and to walk to His glory. We have to learn the way He leads, the guidance of His eye, and there is no other way of knowing His will for every detail and circumstance as they arise than by constantly living in communion with Him and learning in secret the subjection of our wills to His. It is the increase of the full knowledge of God that will fill us with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, and produce that fruitfulness of good works which is pleasing to Him. One in Teaching
“As my Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.” This is the true witness of life, that which in its testimony to men cannot be gainsaid. Men may contradict words, but cannot but feel the force of that which is presented to them in daily life. But such a witness is not to be imitated, nor produced by resolve to do such and such things; it is the fruit of life and of the Spirit. It is produced from the inward man of the heart growing in love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, self-control; this was the blessed witness of our Lord Himself amongst men. To this end the discipline of the Spirit in our daily circumstances is continually in exercise; this is the good for which He causes all things to work, that we may be more and more conformed to the image of God’s Son. One in Destiny “Heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,” stupendous fact! Called with a heavenly calling, blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ, a member of His body the church, destined to share His headship over all things, the believer waits for his Lord from heaven, to add the last touch to the Divine purpose, by changing his body of humiliation into conformity to His body of glory. Reader, what does your heart reply to these things? Are you set to cultivate the Adam or the Christ life? Is your object the glory of God or the advancement of man? Are earth’s schemes or heaven’s purposes commanding your interest? The league of nations for universal peace, or the coming of the Lord to reign? Remember that it cannot truly be both, for a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways, while singleness of eye means the filling of the whole body with the light of God. Disappointment follows from working on bad material and from pursuing a wrong object. 3. The Heavenly Life On two former occasions we have considered the heavenly life: first, as it was inherent in our Lord Jesus Christ, and second, as it is found in the Christian associated with Him, a partaker of the same life, by means of His death and resurrection. We have now to inquire as to the conditions necessary for the development of that life in the disciple which has been seen to such perfection in the Master. An acorn bears small resemblance to an oak, but it has the same principle of life, and given the proper conditions will become a tree, bearing fruit after its kind. Condition 1—Sowing Apart from sowing, an acorn will remain an acorn, the life is there but it will be undeveloped. So with the believer; none can dispute that he that believeth on Him hath eternal life; the fact is plainly stated in Scripture. But to possess is one thing, to grow is quite another. For this there must be that which answers to sowing; viz, the definite acceptance of our death with Christ, to the flesh, the world, and the power of Satan. This truth indeed is taught in the initial rite of baptism, that being planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also of His resurrection. If there is to be progress in the Divine life, there must be a moment when with a faith as simple as when we accepted the fact that our sins were forgiven, because Christ died for us, we now accept the additional fact that we are crucified with Him. Yes, in His death, we have died; there the flesh in us has met its judgment; we no longer belong to the world in which flesh finds its home, and Satan has no longer any lawful claim over us, his power of death is annulled. Accepting these things in faith, the soul enters upon new ground, it reckons itself alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. To use our figure, the acorn has commenced to grow: it is not yet the mature oak, any more than the Christian who so takes account of his place before God has attained to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. But let it be once more stated that apart from the acceptance of these things there can be no knowledge of true Christian life and experience. We may speak of total surrender of the will, receiving a second blessing, and being endued with a new power, but any value there may
be in these expressions, consists in that which has been said, that we are dead with Christ in His death, and risen with Him, through faith of the operation of God who has raised Him from the dead. Then it is that the Holy Spirit becomes to us the power of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Condition 2—Food Life must have this most necessary thing. Peter saw the urgent need of the sincere milk of the Word, that growth might be produced in those who were as new-born babes; and great was the anxiety of Paul lest the beloved Colossians should be spoiled and stunted in their growth, through the lack of the word of Christ dwelling in them richly. They were turning their ears to men’s philosophy, vain deceit, and tradition, all of which were rudiments of the world and did not nourish the life which should be after Christ. We have not to search far, in the light of these scriptures, for the reason why so many Christians seem to make but little progress, for they listen, alas, to the sayings and interpretations of men, instead of the words of God. In the reading of many books which only set forth the many conflicting minds of their authors, they lose themselves in the mists of uncertainty, because they will not give attention to the plain statements of the Word, and trust the Holy Spirit to mean exactly what He has written for our learning, that we through endurance, and through encouragement of the Scripture might have hope. Condition 3—Air Apart from a pure atmosphere neither child nor plant can develop its life. The air which the Christian is to breathe, in which he is to live and move and have his being, is the love of God. No circumstance must be allowed for a moment to cause a doubt of that love, no fear must be permitted to cloud it. It is the birthright of God’s children to know that they are loved of the Father, as Christ is loved. God is love and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him. It is in this atmosphere that the life begins to bear its proper fruit, for we love, because He first loved us. Loving Him that begat we love also those that are begotten of Him, and this love to the brethren becomes the proof to others that we are followers of the Master. To live in this love is the only safeguard from the poison gas of Christendom’s apostasy, which is spreading its deadly effects on every hand. “But ye beloved. . . . keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21), for this is the pure air of heaven. Condition 4—Exercise “Exercise thyself unto godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7), for it has promise of life in the present and the future. Life must be connected with experience, and in this prayer will occupy a very large place indeed. Prayer is the intercourse of the soul with God, the child with the Father. In this, life draws from its source; thus, we hold communion with our Eternal Lover; and by it, we walk with Him. The daily circumstances of our way which often appear so contrary are intended to promote this dependence upon and communion with God, by which the heavenly life grows strong in Him; and they afford the opportunities by which, in taking all to Him, we may exercise ourselves unto godliness. All true service is the result of the power of life in the soul, strengthened by communion with Him. There are many instances of those who had first to learn in quiet, often for a long season, before they were ready to be used in the way that God intended. But whether or no it is His purpose to use in any special way, His object for each is the same, to conform us in life to the image of His Son. Condition 5—Purpose To have God’s purpose before the heart is of the utmost importance, in order that we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, even Christ. We are God’s husbandry; the care which He bestows on each plant of His planting is that it should bring forth fruit after its kind; that the Christ
life should grow, and be sustained, and nourished from its living Head, bearing in consequence the precious fruits of lowliness, meekness, and love characteristic of Himself. So shall it be if God’s purpose is ours also; and as we ever bear about in our bodies (that is in our bodily condition on earth), the dying of the Lord Jesus (in which our history after the flesh was closed, the greatest act of His love was displayed, and the authority of that love over us was established), so shall the life also of Jesus be manifest in our bodies. With clearer vision also, shall we understand God’s ways with His own; for we which live are always delivered unto death (things are so ordered, that we trust not in ourselves but in the Living God), for Jesus sake (He the object), that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh (2 Cor. 4:10-11).
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