Is there one answer to all your tears, all your desires, all your prayers? God has one answer and that is Christ. If you are passing through bereavement and sorrow and the heart feels it – God intends you to feel it – it is to find Christ. Blessed compensation. If I have been through deep sorrow and found Christ, what blessed contemplation. I have found that He is more than enough to fill every breach. Do you think I could, by searching with my brain, find out Christ? Every bit of appreciation of Christ has been through a sense of need. It is an experiential thing, not a doctrinal thing. There is no such thing as a mere doctrinal knowledge of Christ. No. I beg your attention to it; every bit of apprehension you may have of Christ, you have been led into the knowledge of and the blessedness of, experimentally.
(William Johnson, London, early 1900s)
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In John 3, the Lord emphasises the fact that He came from heaven. He works with men from that point of view. He testifies to man as to what is of heaven, from heaven, and what is man needs to be fit for heaven. That requires new birth.
Nicodemus had a mere human conviction of Christ; he knew that He was a teacher come from God because of His miracles. The Lord told him that he had to be born again. Of course, as he looked on things according to man, albeit a religious man. He did not understand what the Lord was talking about.
Being born again is not like some say, having a new nature. That would again be human. If a person has only a human conviction, his or her conscience is not affected, and has no desire to be with Jesus, because Jesus is not attractive to the natural man (see Isa. 53:2). Indeed, he doesn’t even care; he is just interested in what is here – family, politics, sport etc. Although he hopes to go to heaven when he dies, he does not find news from heaven interesting. But how will he be in heaven if Christ, the very centre of heaven’s delight, has no attraction for his heart? Unless, of course he has a totally wrong impression of heaven and thinks of it as a purely earthly paradise [Sosthenes’ addition].
On the other hand, the first thing that a person who has been born of the Spirit realises that he is lost and all wrong, like a bad tree which can never get better. He will be very anxious about that: sin is pressing on his conscience and plaguing his heart. But there is not a sin that Christ has not died for. He has put Himself in the sinner’s place before God. ‘He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Cor 5:21). So the born again sinner sees Him on the cross, answering for him because he could not answer for himself. Christ has done everything that could bar his access to God.
Christ lifted up
God gave His Son – this is the glad tidings of grace. ‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up. … For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:14,16. Nothing but the crucifixion of the blessed Lord could meet the sinner’s case.
He had to be lifted up. He knew everything that that would necessitate. He had came to do His Father’s will, and that will was our salvation. Consequently He drank that cup of wrath in love and quietness in order that the sinner might not. He made peace by the blood of His cross (see Col 1:20)
God set His seal in righteousness when He said, ‘Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool’ (Psalm 110:1, Heb 1:13). Grace now reigns through righteousness (see Rom 5:21) – righteousness having been made good before the whole universe.
Go in Peace
Let none of us doubt the efficacy of what Jesus has done. Have we heard in His quiet voice that the ‘Son of man must be lifted up’ (John 3:14)? Let Him tell us why. Let us learn how blessed it is to live in the light of God, where light shows us (not just our sins) to be white as snow. (see Isa 1:18). May we learn what it is to walk in the light of His countenance.
Recently, we have read together the epistle to the Hebrews with much communion of soul and, I hope, to our profit. For myself, I have been particularly taken up with the epistle to the Ephesians, and with the position of the church as a dispensation or special object of the counsels of God, and I hope that I have profited from it – mainly in affirming my faith and the basis of this faith which stretches my knowledge.
But the position of the church has been set in relief before me in this reading.
Have you noticed that, in the consecration of the priests (in Leviticus), it was not a question of entering into the holy place, either with blood or with incense? All was outside. Moses and Aaron went in afterwards; but the consecration is not concerned with this. The goat offered for sin would have been eaten. This sets out the ostensible purpose of their priesthood as such, in contrast to the heavenly things of the church. The day of atonement was something else. I would like that you think of it. Christ, of course, occupies this double place.
Moses is Christ rejected by His brethren and risen to glory, identifying himself with his brethren, stranger and misunderstood, in returning to liberate them from their bondage. In the first case, he receives, himself exalted, his people in grace. In the second, he comes as one of them to deliver them.
There are also certain characters of the Holy Spirit during this dispensation, a character which belongs to Him: the union with the hidden Head, risen to the right hand of God, and the earnest of the glory to come.
It is evident that the Holy Spirit will be spread abroad as the Spirit of power during the thousand years, but this will no longer be the power of a life hidden with Christ in God. He will be no longer hidden. Besides, the seal and the earnest during the non-accomplishment of the promises will not have their place in those times. These are those who have hope in advance who need to be thus sealed and obtain thus the earnest, and this by a Spirit come down who links the heart to Him who has gone up.
The Spirit has, it seems to me, two characters at the end of the gospel of John, even as to His office.
The Lord, as Mediator, obtains Him and the Father sends Him, and he acts on behalf of the Father as the Spirit of adoption and of the knowledge of the truth. He comforts and instructs the children here below.
But also, [in chapters] 15 and 16, the Lord Christ risen on high sends Him Himself; then he takes the things of Christ and shows them to His own; and all that the Father has is [given] to the Son, that is to say that He renders testimony to the glory of the Son of man risen as being one with the Father, and finally to all His glory …