Seeking and Receiving: Part 2

IN the case of the poor woman that was a sinner, she had seen Christ in goodness and in love; she was one who might be ashamed to show herself to any decent person (Luke 7:37, 3837And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. (Luke 7:37‑38)). But she comes to Him, and He would not reject her. The light got in, and she saw how thoroughly vile she was. This is always the case. The light breaks in, and we get into the light as God is in the light; but the One Who has opened the door to God in our hearts is He Who has come in grace. You may frighten a man about his sins, but there will be no confidence. When the light in Him Who is love breaks into the soul, it gives confidence (I do not say a perfect conscience); but the soul trusts God.
The poor prodigal comes to himself again. All seems well in the far country, while he is spending his substance. But there is soon a “famine in the land;” and there is many a poor soul finding nothing to satisfy it, who knows what a famine is. Man's heart was made for God, and there is nothing to satisfy without Him. This was a case of real wickedness. It is not that everybody runs to that excess; but the Lord puts the case, that sinners, however vile, may know what to trust in that they can return. When he comes to himself, he says, The servants have “enough and to spare; and I perish with hunger.” There is goodness in God, and badness in me. However wise and clever a man may be, there is no conscience-work, and hence no real work, till he comes to that point, There is goodness in God, and badness in me.
Then, as regards the sin, the prodigal was as great a sinner, though not as degraded (for sin degrades), when he crossed his father's threshold, as when in the far country with the swine. When he came to himself, he said, “I will arise;” he was converted. His going was quite right, owning his sin and unworthiness. He meant to say, “Make me as one of thy hired servants;” but this was something he did not say to his father. He was reasoning from his own thoughts still, from his own condition, as to how his father would receive him. This is the principle of self-righteousness, though in a subtle form. How can God receive such an one as I? Mark, there is not a word of it when he had met his father. Your hearts turn to God, but have not peace. The young man had not met his father at all, and he did not know his father's mind. He was reasoning as to what his father would be when he met him. How many are doing this?
But God meets such in grace: this is what they do not yet appreciate, and this is why they are reasoning. They see the goodness in God, but measure His thoughts by their own condition. They see goodness in God, but still linger at this, “I am not fit.” Of course you are not. You say, “I am lost.” Very glad you have found it out; it is the means of getting peace. Conversion must be; but conversion is not the knowledge of the Father's heart in salvation. As yet the prodigal was not fit for the house; he was in his rags. What his intention to say (“Make me as one of thy hired servants”) proved was, that he had not met his father. Suppose you say of one you have done a wrong to, “I wonder how he would receive me;” it is clear, you have not met him yet.
Many sincere souls are reasoning from what they are to know what God will be; yet they are not competent to know what is in God's heart but from Himself. They reason upwards from what they are to God; the Holy Ghost reasons downwards from God's heart and Christ's work to us. This upward reasoning, from what we are to what God will be, is self-righteousness. The prodigal did not know his father's minds Then he goes up with his mind to his father. While yet a great way off, his “father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him.”
Now we have what the father does. The son was in what. is the effect of not knowing God's mind (that is, where conscience is at work)—self-righteousness. The principle of self-righteousness is, What will God be, seeing I am such and such? People say, “Must I not work?” Yes; but you are not in the place for it yet. People say, “Must I not have holiness?” Indeed you must; “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” But when you are in the state of the prodigal, it is not holiness you should be looking for, but righteousness. Holiness and righteousness are two distinct things. When I have holiness, I take delight in what God delights in; and it becomes my purified heart's affection, with the abhorrence of what is hateful and sin.
“Holy” means hating a thing, if evil, for its own sake; or loving it, if good. It is not a question of the ground of acceptance. Must I not be holy? Yes, it is just as true as righteousness; but such are looking whether they can be accepted or not. You have a holy nature, the moment you are born of God; but you have never holy thoughts and feelings till you get settled peace. Till you get this, it is righteousness you should look for; for it connects itself with acceptance by, God and must do so—yea, ought. When I have settled peace and am sealed, I look at the evil and hate the thing for its own sake. This is holiness; and there is growth in it too. I get to know more of God—what God's nature and character is;. and my soul becomes more like Him. As long as I mix it up with acceptance, it is a delusion to call it holiness. Righteousness is in question.
Well, the prodigal comes back to his father and there is not a word about “Make me as one of thy hired servants.” What made the difference then was that the idea of his position flowed from his father's thoughts, not his own. Why? The father was on his neck, kissing him. It was not a question what would be, but the blessed consciousness of what then was. Not a word have you of what passed in the prodigal's heart at all, save that he fully confessed his sins. A converted man, simply as such, is not fit to get into the house—he is in his rags. But the father went out to meet him where he was, in his rags without. Suppose he in that state were let in, what would the servants say? all unfitted, as his rags were, for his father and for his house! a disgraced son brought in!
But though on his neck in love, the father does not bring him into the house thus. He takes the best robe—it was no part of what the son had before; it was in the father's treasures. Thus God brings out what satisfies His love, and what suits us for His house, that is, Christ. The prodigal comes in with all the honor of a son: so now grace allows nothing to make us uneasy in going into the house. “Accepted in the Beloved,” we are made the “righteousness of God in Him.” The son comes to a point where the father clothes him with the very best robe. There is no condemnation for him; his sins are blotted out. Jesus “was delivered for our offenses.” Then He puts the ring on his hand, and does everything that puts the stamp of His delight on the poor prodigal, and brings him into the house to make all as happy as Himself.
This is what we have: the love that sought (as in the first two parables) is the love that received (as in the third); but received according to what a man must he for the glory of God's house—that is, Christ, and nothing else. We are in Him. “There is no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus.” What I find then, as distinct from being converted, is this: his standing in Christ. Then his thoughts about his father and about himself are according to what is in his father's mind. He is made a son. God brings us, in all the efficacy and honor of what Christ has done, into His own presence, and righteously there. He delights in the fruit of His own love to the poor sinner.
The gospel proclaims to us that in Christ's work God has anticipated the day of judgment. And this work is divine, perfect, and finished; and, in virtue of it, Christ is sitting on the right hand of God in the heavens. I may go on laboring to be accepted; but the moment I go on the ground of what the Father is, I am a mere sinner. But also I see God loves me, and has given His Son for me, and I am in Christ (this is the best robe); and He has given the Spirit that I may know it; so that, though in weakness, my relationship with God is settled by God Himself. And Christ did not sit down at the right hand of God till He had finished the work that God gave Him to do; and He is sitting there, because “by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” God gives us the knowledge of it by giving us the Holy Ghost. When Christ is the ground on which I rest with God, I am as fit to go into God's house as God can make me. You never get this till you give up your own righteousness.
The prodigal was not fit to go in till he got the “best robe.” This was a testimony to all that were there, that God put the highest honor on the prodigal. The love and light come in, and give confession of sins as seen in God's sight, with confidence; but righteousness comes in too—that is, Christ. Then the whole thing flows in upon my soul from the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the gift of the Holy Ghost that makes me know that, being a lost sinner, my standing is not in myself. I am never to be thinking of anything good in myself. I am now before God upon the footing of what God has done, not upon what I have done.
So we get in Balaam's prophecy (Num. 23:2323Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! (Numbers 23:23)), “It shall be said concerning Israel, What hath God wrought?” A soul may now say, and that as it is standing before Him, What hath God wrought in Christ (2 Cor. 5:2121For 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 Corinthians 5:21))? Are your souls saying this now? Seeing utter sinfulness in yourselves, owning that in yourselves when converted you are not fit for God's house; but your souls resting upon what He wrought, and the infiniteness of the love that gave Christ. So Christ, as man, did not sit down at the right hand of God, till He had finished the work God gave Him to do, and He is “now appearing in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:2424For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: (Hebrews 9:24)).
I desire earnestly that you would just weigh this: first, in ourselves, “I have sinned and am no more worthy;” second, where we have found it out for ourselves, we give up thinking whether we are fit to go in or not fit. But the sinner (seeing the love of the Father in the grace which, while it falls on his neck in his rags, puts the “best robe” on him) knows that He has “made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light,” and has given the Holy Ghost that we may know it. And I say to you what God is doing now, till the Lord Jesus comes to take us to be with Himself, is beseeching men to be reconciled to Him, that we may be made the “righteousness of God in Him” that righteousness of God shown in Christ's sitting at the right hand of God.
The Lord open the hearts not open, and give them and all not at peace with Him to see what the way of grace in the Lord Jesus is—giving Himself for our sins, to deliver us from this present evil world, and confer a place with Himself and in Himself forever. J, N. D.
POPISH unity attaches Christ's name to unity, and hence legalizes with His name every corruption. Christian unity attaches unity to Christ, and therefore gives it all His excellence.
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