Reading: Colossians 2.
When waiting before the Lord concerning these
days of conference, it was borne on my heart that He would have us be occupied
with Christ in heaven as our Sufficiency.
Let us turn to some passages of Scripture:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly
places in Christ...". Eph. 1:3-4.
"...They drank of a spiritual rock that followed them: and the rock was
Christ". 1 Cor. 10:1-4.
"This is he that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel... who
received living oracles to give unto us." Acts 7:38.
"...Our sufficiency is from God..." 2 Cor. 3:5.
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness
of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves." 2 Cor. 4:7.
All these passages have to do, in one way or
another, with sufficiency. That sufficiency is bound up with our Lord Jesus
Christ. Now what occupies us here is touching a question about which every
Christian should be quite sure and clear as to its answer: What is the supreme
purpose which governs the life of a child of God? It is very important that we
should be able to answer that question. I believe the right answer is: the
supreme purpose of the life of the child of God is - to learn Christ.
God has filled Christ with all His fulness. In
Him dwell all the riches of knowledge and wisdom. And that fulness is for us.
The apostle Paul makes this statement, saying, that we are "blessed with
every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ". Thus our
business as believers is to learn Christ to come, in a living way, into the
fulness of Jesus Christ. That governs everything. Every dealing of God with His
child is to bring that one into a fuller knowledge of Christ. All the rest in
our life will be but the outcome and the result of that knowledge.
I have heard many people say that the purpose
of God, in having saved us, is that we should save others. But this is only a
part of God's purpose. There can be no real service for the Lord apart from a
personal knowledge of the Lord. We can never lead anyone into a knowledge which
is not ours, neither can we lead anyone further than we know Christ in a living
way. So everything depends on the measure of our knowledge of Jesus Christ.
If we live as long as Methuselah we shall never
exhaust the fulness of Jesus Christ. There is always more to discover in Him. I
therefore believe that our occupation in eternity will be to know Christ more
and more. Our life-purpose is to enter into the sufficiency of all the fulness
of Jesus Christ for us. If that is perfectly clear the question will arise:
How Can We Learn Christ?
Before we answer this question let us first
look at the background of that fulness and sufficiency of Christ. It may startle
you if I say that this background is a WILDERNESS. We can only know the
sufficiency of our Lord Jesus Christ if we are willing to go into the
Now, the wilderness has always been the best
place for spiritual education. You may think that there is not much to be learnt
in a wilderness. Nevertheless it is so; it is the best place to learn heavenly
things. It was so with Abraham; it was so in the case of Moses; it was true with
Israel. The wilderness had also a definite place in the life of Paul. Whether we
take it in a literal or a spiritual way, the fact is, that God's people were,
again and again, sent into the wilderness. Many of us know what such a
When God puts His hand upon a people, He always
cuts them off from everything which is not of Himself; that is, He cuts them off
from the whole realm of their natural life, and puts them, so to speak, outside
of the world of nature. We see this in the case of the people of Israel. Pharaoh
was allowing them to go into the desert; he wanted them to serve God in a
half-hearted way: partly in Egypt and partly in the land. But that could never
serve God. God's irreducible minimum was: not a hoof was to be left behind.
God's people should be absolutely separated from Egypt. Therefore the Red Sea
came between His people and the Egyptians. God saw to it that they remained in
the wilderness until they had learnt their lesson. God had some great lessons to
teach them there. Israel's sojourn in the wilderness had to serve coming
generations as an example. The dispensation of the church - yet far away in the
future - was to derive its instruction from them. In the wilderness God laid
down eternal principles. The things which happened to Israel "were our
God cuts His people off from the whole realm of
nature. You know how little the natural man prevails in the wilderness. It
doesn't matter how intellectual, how mighty the natural resources are. It is not
of much use in a wilderness. You may be an excellent student, a splendid
businessman or organiser, yet all this is not much good in a wilderness. For a
man who is planted down alone in the middle of a wilderness, his own cleverness
is not of much avail, his natural capacities will not bring him very far.
So you see what matters. When God gets us into
His hand, He takes us right out of the realm of what we are by nature. That is
the meaning of the wilderness. God's object is to make Christ everything. So
long as we can do things, so long as we have resources in ourselves, we cannot
know Jesus Christ. Christ will remain an unexplored realm for us.
In the first letter to the Corinthians we find
some definite statements concerning Christ in the wilderness. "They did all
eat the same spiritual food, and drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank
of a spiritual rock that followed them; and the rock was Christ." Whenever
Israel came into a new situation of need, the thing which God did for them to
meet that need was to give them an illustration of Christ. If they needed food,
heaven provided it. What they received was a type of Christ. So they learned to
know Christ in the wilderness as their food and their drink. This is a great
historic illustration for the church, that Christ in heaven is her
What was true of Israel historically was also
true of Jesus Christ voluntarily. Christ accepted that position of dependence
for Himself. He chose to live entirely on heavenly resources. Everything
concerning Christ here on earth speaks of His poverty. He had none of the riches
of this world. He did not enjoy the advantages this world could provide. He was
born in a very poor home. Early in His life He had to work for His livelihood.
His life was right to the end straitened on the natural side. But so He willed
it to be. He chose to live on heavenly resources rather than on earthly means.
He fulfilled His whole ministry as out from heavenly resources. We may see that
more fully later.
The church, when wholly in the hands of the
Lord, will be led by the same way, and brought into that dependence. All that
which is of nature must cease, that she may learn that her whole life is bound
up with Christ in heaven, and all her resources are in Him alone.
But it is just wonderful to live in the
heavenlies! it is a realm of constant discoveries, of continuous wonder. Day by
day we feel how impossible the things are as seen from the natural standpoint.
We know in ourselves that we cannot meet situations and answer the need. Our
nature is governed by this great, "I cannot". We see this in Paul's life. He
says of the natural man that he "cannot know the things of God". That is
the reason why natural resources are of no avail in the realm of divine things.
But to be brought into the realisation of that fact is to be brought into a
realm of wonderful experiences, a realm of constant discoveries of how rich and
full Christ is for us. Only those who realise their own weakness and failure
know what a wonderful strength and fulness there is in Christ. In the course of
time we come up against an impossible situation. There is no strength in us to
meet that need. We do not know how to get through this thing. If we are left to
ourselves we shall fail. But now we are entering into a fresh experience. We are
learning something we have never known before. We see that the Lord has brought
us into such a situation that we may discover more of the resources of Christ.
At the beginning we thought we were going to break down; but in going on, in
spite of all appearances, we slowly learn the lessons of the wilderness, so that
we get into a new inward position where we can meet greater demands.
Thus we learn by experience that the Lord is
equal to every situation, that Christ has what we need. Instead of being
discouraged, we carry about a spirit of victory, although we have not more
strength in us than before. We are just as unable in ourselves as we have ever
been. But we begin to discover how capable the Lord is, how great His fulness is
in our emptiness. He is the Strength in our weakness, He is the Wisdom for our
foolishness. Our resources are no longer earthly resources, they are heavenly
resources in Christ.
This was Paul's experience when he was in
prison. Imagine being in his place! Cut off from temporal blessings, his work in
the churches apparently come to an end, his liberty taken from him, in evident
need physically and temporally. The whole situation he was in was depressing. He
was faced with an early execution. And then he begins to write: "Blessed be
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every
spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." He is in the 'wilderness', yet
he is living on the basis of Christ. Therefore he is triumphant.
And because he has so learnt Christ he has been
able to be a blessing to an untold number of believers right up to this day.
When turning to his letters we receive ever fresh blessings from its pages. The
riches of Jesus Christ are flowing to us in abundance through His servant Paul.
Paul knew Christ. But there was a spiritual wilderness in the background of that
life, that is, a realm where nature cannot help. Therefore he writes: "We
have this treasure in vessels of fragile clay...". That is the wilderness of
our own nature - vessels of fragile clay. "Our outward man is perishing".
Paul had learnt the All-sufficiency of Christ for himself in the wilderness of
the natural man.
So you see, the supreme business of a believer
is to learn Christ. That brings us into a position of spiritual power and
fulness, which means to live a life of victory and fruitfulness.
There are many who will not have the
wilderness. They work for the Lord in their own strength. Such people do not
know the Lord Jesus. They will not learn Christ. But if we will give to the Lord
His place in our life, it may be that He will bring us into a wilderness that He
may reveal Himself to us in His fulness, that we may learn Christ and His
May the Lord use these messages in order to
show us our poverty, and reveal to us His fulness.