It is probable that some of you were not here with us last evening. I would like therefore, to say that what we are going to think about this afternoon is following on what we were doing last evening. You will understand that there has been something before this, but I will do my best to link you on with that so that we can just continue.
The thing that the Lord has laid on my heart for this time is that which has come in with the Lord Jesus. That is, what it was that came into this world with the Lord Jesus; what He brought in with Him, and therefore what we as Christians have come into in the Lord Jesus. It is just the crisis which was reached when Jesus came into this world. It was a crisis for all time. I am more and more convinced as I travel about the world that there is a very great need of recovering the true meaning of Christianity. Even Christians everywhere do not understand what they have come into. I believe that ninety percent of all our troubles are due to that. If we went to the Lord with many of our troubles and asked Him to tell us why it is we’re in this trouble, He would just say, “Well, this is just exactly what I told you; you have not understood what I told you.”
Now, let me illustrate it in this way. When we were young (of course that’s a long time ago for some of us!) there was a game that we used to play at our Christmas parties. All the people present would be formed into a big circle and then one person at the beginning of the circle would whisper in the ear of the next person something. You know this game? And that person would say it to the next person, and so it passed right round the circle. And then the last person would have to say out loud what they had received. And of course there was a great deal of laughter. The thing had gathered a lot of other things as it went on, or it had lost a lot of things. And when it comes out at the end you hardly recognize what was said at the beginning.
Now evidently you know that game. I think that’s like Christianity. Of course Christianity is not a game. It’s a very serious business. But it’s been passed on around great circles through many generations and as it has gone on, it has lost something. It has gained a lot of other things and you can hardly recognize now that that is the original thing. People have just said what they thought they heard. Men have given their own interpretations and here today we have a Christianity that is not the original. Indeed, many Christians have a Christ who is not the original Christ.
Now I am not saying that that is true about you; of course, you are all right! Are you all right? Do you not need to be put right about your Christianity? Do you not need to have Christianity explained to you? Is there not something to be recovered? Is there not something to let go? But it’s just that that we’re occupied with in these days. And if you think this does not apply to you, I can tell you that the one who is speaking to you knows how true it is, I’m always getting into difficulties with the Lord. Does that sound very terrible? Sometimes I almost have a quarrel with the Lord, “Now Lord, are You quite sure You’re right in what You’re doing with me? Are You quite sure that You’re right in the way You’re leading me?” And He just says, “Go back to My Word.”
Shall I give an illustration? A few weeks ago I got very discouraged in ministry. Oh, how difficult this work of the Lord is! What a lot of difficult people! What a lot of difficult problems. And all our teaching seems to get such a little way... And so I went to the Lord, I said “Lord, I think it’s time I retired. I think I have done enough. Now Lord, will You excuse me? Pass it on to others and let me finish my days quietly.” Well, of course you may say, “Well, poor chap. He’s in a bad way.” So I talked to the Lord with my trouble. Then early in the morning I opened my Bible and what did my eyes come on? There it was, straight between my eyes: “Preach the Word! Be instant in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke and exhort with all long suffering.” There it is in the Word. We get into our troubles because we get away from the beginning. When we come back to the original Word, the Lord has the answer for all our problems.
Well now, having said that, let us come back to our subject. You know last night we were in the Gospel by John, we’re going to say a few more things about this Gospel. Of course I expect that people who come to conferences know their Bibles so that it is not necessary for me to tell you what is in the Bible. My work is to try to explain what is in the Bible, because you know your Bibles I have the ground laid for what I have to say.
Now, to begin with you know that the Gospel by John is the eternal Gospel. Matthew, Mark, Luke are the Gospels of history. They begin with the birth of the Lord Jesus, or in the case of Mark, the beginning of His earthly ministry. They are historical Gospels. When you come to John, you get outside of history. You’re going to come into history, but you begin outside, right back in the eternity past, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God.” Then history, “Through Him, by Him, all things were made” but John’s Gospel from beginning to end is set in the eternal. Please try to remember that as we go on.
We were saying last night that the name given to the Son of God as “The Word” is an eternal thought. A word begins with a thought. That thought was in the mind of God then the word is an expression of that thought. Here in this Gospel behind all that is written we have eternal thoughts. You must always, when you’re reading this Gospel, look behind the thing that is written. You will see how important that is as we go on.
Here we have in this Gospel then, the eternal thoughts of God. To what does that eternal thought of God relate? It relates to people whom He desires to have as His children. In other words, the eternal thought of God relates to a kind of being called “man”. You notice how the Gospel goes on – He, the Word, came to His own things, which He had made, of course, “All things were made by Him” John has just said. He came to the things which He had made, which were His own things, but the people who were His own received Him not. He had made man, He came to man, and man received Him not. But to as many as did receive Him, to them gave He the right to be children of God.
I’m tempted to stay with that word “right”. In the Greek it is “authority”; a legal authority. To be a child of God is to have conferred upon us a legal authority. We are not illegitimate children, we are true sons with all the rights of true sons. Do you see what that implies? No one but these born of God have divine rights. All the children of Adam have lost their rights, they have lost all that they ought to have as God’s children. As children of Adam we have no claims upon God whatever. But those who receive Christ have all those divine rights restored to them. Later on an apostle will put it this way: “We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.” That means that all our rights as sons of God have been restored in Christ. That is something of what we have come into in Christ. That is something of what has come in with Christ. But that is only by the way... let us go on!
This eternal thought of God which took expression in Jesus Christ is the thought of “not” to an old kind of man. Jesus Christ says “No!” to a certain kind of man. All the children of Adam now lie under the great “No!” of God. I’m speaking to your experience. If you know anything about having the Spirit of Jesus Christ, one side of your spiritual education is just this: inside of you the Holy Spirit says “No!” to a lot of things. You speak in a certain way... do you get away with it? Or do you not very soon feel something inside of you saying, “No, not that way.” Of course it is not all negative, but for the moment we’re dealing with the negative. The Spirit of Jesus Christ says “No!” to a whole kind of man and what we have to learn in Christianity is that to which Christ says “No!”.
Jesus Christ crucified is the end of a kind of man. Of course, that is representatively as representing this kind of humanity which He came to put away. So the coming in of Jesus Christ says “Not!” to a whole kind of man but in Himself, in Himself He is God’s “But!”. He is God’s great “Yes!” as to man. I suppose it is not too often that we enjoy the “Yes!” we have a lot of experience of the “Not!” I find a lot of Christians who seem to enjoy the “Not”! I wonder if you know what I mean... Oh, how difficult it is to get a lot of Christians to forget themselves! They’re just about as miserable as anybody could be but they’re always hugging their miserable selves. They seem to love to talk about their misery. When they pray they’re always telling the Lord what miserable people they are, “Oh Lord, what a poor thing I am. Just look at me Lord. I’m no good”. And they just cling to that – you can’t get them to give it up. They almost love to be miserable.
And so the Lord doesn’t do anything. If He does anything at all He says, “Well, you know that’s what I told you two thousand years ago and I have never changed My mind about you. It is your miserable wretched self that I put to the cross because I knew how miserable it is!” We do not enjoy the “But” enough. But it does work this way, if we do something that pleases the Lord, we know it inside. We know that the Spirit of Jesus Christ is saying, “Yes, that’s right.” That is the way of peace. That is the way of joy. It’s this Christ Who is the difference in us. And I repeat: our whole spiritual education is to learn those two sides of Christ, to learn what Jesus says “No” to.
I must stay here a minute. The thing that is surprising me so much today is how very little many Christians know of this speaking of Jesus inside. It’s not true here, but it is true very largely especially in our young Christians in these days. They can behave; they can dress; perhaps I ought to say not dress! They can get themselves up and in the Word of God there is a definite statement about that and yet these young Christians don’t seem to know what is in the Word of God. Shall I cite a Scripture? Here is the Word of God: “Let your women adorn themselves in modest apparel.” You know, I think modesty has left this world very largely. Of course this doesn’t apply here, but I’m speaking about a principle. I look at many of these Christians and I say, “Where is the Lord in them? Why is not the Lord putting His finger upon this and that and saying: Not?” That is what He came into this world for - to bring in an altogether new order, an entirely new order of consciousness.
Now we come to the Cross of the Lord Jesus and we were saying last night that the Cross of the Lord Jesus stands between two distinctly different orders. On the one side the Cross says “No” to a whole creation. I do not think it was just a happening when Jesus died that darkness came over the face of all the earth. Heaven closed its light. What did that mean? Or do you just read it, you say, “Well when Jesus died, the sun hid its face. There was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.” But what did it mean? You have gone back before the creation. What do we find before the creation? “And darkness was over the face of the deep.” The work of God had not begun in creation. In the death of the Lord Jesus, we’ve gone right back. The work of God in the new creation has not yet begun until Jesus rises from the dead.
Everything is put back into darkness with the death of the Lord Jesus. Everything will come up into light and life when He rises from the dead. It is not a very clever observation that the Gospel by John begins with exactly the same word as the book of Genesis begins with, Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God”; John 1:1, “In the beginning the Word” God. In the beginning God. Therefore, John is the spiritual counterpart of Genesis. What Genesis was in the natural creation John is in the spiritual creation. So that when we come to John’s Gospel, we are on the line of a new creation. What is the crown of this creation? The crown of the old creation was man. The crown of the new creation is Christ. A new Man.
Now I’ve got out into a tremendous realm, and I must somehow break it up. We’ve already been here nearly an hour. So I come to one very important point. I think I yet have a little time in this conference to say some more.
I’m going to ask you a question. Now you'll have to think hard, you'll have to put a cold towel around your head: What is the supreme issue in all the Bible? What does the whole Bible amount to in one thing? Of course there are thousands of things in the Bible, but what does the whole Bible relate to? There is such a thing. What is it? [Interpreter says:] The new creation is it? No. The birth of Christ in the church? No. The glorification of the Father? These are all related... Now He has received the promise? No. That is Christ? No, they're all related! The Cross? No. That’s related, it’s a part of it. The whole world full of people who all know the Life of the Lord Jesus? That’s a part of it. The New Jerusalem? Well I think you're all over the place! Of course all these things are right, but you have not got to the point yet.
What is the one all-governing thing through the whole Bible? Now I’ll tell you: Right standing with God! How can man have right standing with God? We have a word for it, haven’t we? It’s the great word, it’s the word “righteousness”. Of course that’s a theological word. That’s a word of Christian doctrine. Oh, but it is infinitely more than that! From Genesis to Revelation the one question is: right standing with God. There is God, He is over all. God... perfect in holiness - perfect in every way! How can man stand in God’s presence on right ground and say, “I have a right to be here before God”? That is the meaning of righteousness, it is right standing with God. Is not that your concern? Every day this question arises - being right with God, being able to stand up before God and say “I am quite right. There is no fault that God can find in me.”
Isn’t that tremendous? You see, because Adam sinned as he did, he put the whole race out of God. The whole race in Adam has no right standing with God. Our New Testament says “There is none righteous, no not one!” Put it in this other way: there is not one who has a right standing with God. That’s the issue of the Bible. How can that be changed? A tremendous thing, isn’t it? Oh, what a marvelous thing if you and I were able to say, “Today I can stand before God without any condemnation!” Do you think that’s too much, too much even to think of? No, that is what Jesus came to do! We are made accepted in the Beloved One.
“Let us draw near in full assurance of faith.” The whole Gospel is just this: that the righteousness of God is given to us through faith in Jesus Christ. Right standing with God is given to us through faith in Jesus Christ! Then of course you at once begin and go back to the other side of the Cross again and say, “But what about my sin? What about all my faults and my failings? What about all the things that I do wrong every day? Is that not a contradiction?” Well you don’t know your New Testament if you think that’s a contradiction! The Lord has never said anywhere that you and I are perfect in ourselves. But He has said that we are perfect in Christ! In Christ we inherit right standing with God and this becomes the battleground of the whole Christian life. What is the nature of the battle of the Christian life? The battle is with the one who wants to get us onto the ground that is not right standing with God.
The devil tried to get in between the Lord Jesus and His Father and he will try to our very last breath to get in between us and the Lord Jesus. He is the great accuser of the brethren. You have only got to do one wrong thing and the devil will jump in at once and he will seek to bring you under condemnation, to bring you onto the ground of judgment again - remove you from your right standing with God by faith. This is a tremendous spiritual battle and the battle of the Christian is to keep on his own right ground in Christ.
You make a mistake - you do something wrong - what are you going to do about it? Well, what about that? You have two things that you can do. You can listen to the devil and you will say, “Well there you are, just the same all over again. Salvation makes no difference!” Something goes wrong in your life, you get some trouble, you have some suffering, what is the next thing that happens? You don’t hear a voice, but you feel a voice, and that says, “That’s because the Lord doesn’t love you. That is because the Lord has left you. That is the punishment for your sin.” You know where that leads, don’t you? The Christian life is full of cul-de-sacs. You know what that is don’t you? Somewhere up here that leads nowhere - a dead end. And if you want to get anywhere you’ve got to come out.
Elijah got up one of those side streets. He threw himself down under the juniper tree, and he said, “It’s enough, oh Lord, take away my life! I’m no better than all the others. I’m a bad, worthless fellow.” What did the Lord do? Did the Lord get under the juniper tree with him, saying “Poor, old Elijah! I’m very sorry for you.” No, the Lord didn’t do that and didn’t say that. He said, “Come out of that Elijah. We’re going on! We’re not going up side streets. We’re not on a dead end. Come out of your cul-de-sac.”
Now, if you listen to the devil talking to you about your sufferings or your sins, that’s where you will be. What is the other thing you can do? Oh no, you will not say “that wasn’t sin, I was not wrong.” You will not begin to excuse yourself. You will say, “That was wrong and Lord, I’m sorry for it. Forgive me! Put that under the blood of Jesus.” Then what happens? The Lord says, “All right, come on, we’ll go on.” Of course you don’t hear it like that, but you know it’s true. That is the battle of the spiritual life.
Now there’s so very much more that I want to say about this, but I think you’ve had enough for this afternoon. Do you see what has come in with the Lord Jesus? Are you beginning to see what we have come into in the Lord Jesus? We have just got on to the line of the new creation. Where does the new creation begin? It begins with a man who is now in right standing with God. We inherit that in Jesus Christ. It is our birthright - to stand right with God because we inherit His righteousness. That little phrase does mean so much to me. I hope it means as much to you; the righteousness of God which is ours through faith in Jesus Christ!
Don’t you agree that we Christians need to understand our Christianity better? The devil is making a lot of trouble for us because we don’t understand our Christianity. Well this is only the beginning, may the Lord make this mean something to us.