Seeking and Receiving

Table of Contents

1. Seeking and Receiving: Part 1
2. Seeking and Receiving: Part 2

Seeking and Receiving: Part 1

THERE are two things given us in this chapter: first, the origin and source of our salvation, God seeking us; and, secondly, the reception of the person when he comes back to God, and, at the same time, what passed in the heart of the prodigal when coming back to his Father. When come back, we hear no more of him, but of what passed in the heart of the Father.
It is a wonderful thing (if we did not know what we are naturally) to think that God should have to excuse Himself for loving us (vers. 31, 32 compared with 1, 2). It shows the selfishness and hardness of the human heart, that, if it cannot accredit itself before God, it will not have God's righteousness. That is what the elder brother was in his selfish self-righteousness (the Pharisee saying, “I never transgressed thy commandments;” and “Thou never gavest me a kid, to make merry with my friends”). Thus there was not one movement of the heart that fell in with the Father or even the servants. The whole household was moved by the Father's joy; but in him there was no response at all. The self-righteousness of man sets up to be something and accredits itself; but it is only of himself he is thinking. His Father's grace and goodness leads selfishness but to complain against God. This characterized the Jews in principle. These Pharisees were complaining against Christ for having eaten with publicans and sinners; then comes the blessed truth that God will not give up His character of love, but goes on in spite of all the false pretentious righteousness of man.
There are two things in these parables: the seeking; and the receiving. The first two refer to the seeking, the last to the reception of the sinner through redemption. The first two are God seeking (I do not doubt you get Father, Son, and Holy Ghost): the Shepherd seeks the sheep; the woman lights the candle to search for the piece of silver, as the Spirit by the gospel. Then you find the reception by the Father. In the first is the simple blessed principle that man kicks against—that it all comes from God to you in love. How self-righteousness gets mixed up in many hearts with the full free grace of God! The great thing seen of Christ is, God the originator of all the mercy. God has gone through the question of man's responsibility, and “there is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10). This is the summing up of the state of man before God, as being thoroughly tried. God in His mercy has given it, because the tendency of the human heart is to go on the ground of its righteousness, conscience telling him he should have it for God (as the law is its perfect measure: He has taken that ground with man). But our hearts do not submit to God's righteousness till we have gone through the testing: we have to learn it in a real way.
Further, God never left man without testimony: I do not say without promise, because this was to the Second Man. First (though not without testimony, as Enoch, Noah, and so on) man was left to himself. And what was the end of it? All was so bad that God had to bring in the flood. This was judgment on man in a certain sense left to himself. Then we have the second great principle: the promise came first—promise to Abraham, who was called out of a world which had gone into idolatry (Josh. 24:2). Then things went on till the law was given, when man took up the promises, but upon the footing of his own obedience; for they said, “All that Jehovah hath spoken we will do.” But they went on with wickedness afterward; they made the golden calf. There had been then sinners and law-breakers. But this was not all: God sent the prophets, dealing with their consciences, “rising up early, and sending them.” After all, God says, “I have still one Son, they will reverence Him;” but they cast Him out.
That is, you have man (in a certain sense) left to himself, but not without testimony; then man under law, and breaking it; then the Son of God came, God manifesting Himself. God was revealing Himself to win back the heart of man to confidence in Himself, in perfect and patient goodness, passing through this world as man, perfect and spotless; that good in power might meet every sorrow—power which removed all the present effects of sin. But they would not have God on any terms. Grace has wrought from Adam, but the heart of man is still the same. They break the law now, as far as they have their share in it. They cannot put Christ to death now; but talk of Christ to the world, and see how they will like it I We have had the law, and the prophets; after that Christ came. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.” And when the Holy Ghost came into this world, it was but a world that had rejected the Son of God. God says to the world, What have you done with My Son? Men forget that the Son has been here: He is not here now. Everything that God could do He did, if anything could win the heart of man; but it was all of no use. Is it not a very solemn thing?
But to come to the point where God and man really meet, it is only at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. There was man's enmity rejecting the Son of God come in grace, and there was God giving His Son in love. We find a most blessed picture of it when the soldiers were sent to break the legs of those who were crucified with Him. “A bone of Him shall not be broken;” but they must make sure they have got rid of Him: “They pierced His side,” and there came out blood and water. What a sign of salvation as Gods answer to man's insultingly making sure that he had got rid of God come in mercy! There is where a soul can meet God, and there only. It is God's truth as to its state, that “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7). But His love has met it where it is. In truth we must come as mere sinners to the cross. The only part that we had in that which saved us was our sins; and there we must come. All must come before the Lord Jesus and bow to Him, either as Savior, or as Judge if we neglect salvation. Such is man's history.
Thus comes in the fullness of grace. God had proved man's state. He had now to act from Himself. They had had the law “by the disposition of angels;” they had had the prophets; they had had the Son, the Just One, and the testimony of the Holy Ghost. “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51-53). He had come with the testimony of Christ glorified. Stephen's speech was a kind of summing up as to man. They had broken the law, slain those which showed before the coming of the Just One,” were His betrayers and murderers, and resisted the Holy Ghost. Now, consequently, what we find on the other side is, that the spring and source of the whole blessing is God's own heart. What made the Shepherd look after the sheep? It was what was in the heart of the Shepherd toward it. Who put it into God's heart to send His Son? We did not; we would not have Him when He came. “If one died for all, then were all dead” (2 Cor. 4:15). Thus we see what was the first spring and movement of all: it was infinite grace! All were lost. But “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 3:16). There is the wonderful truth, that the spring of it all is in God's own heart. Jesus “came to seek and to save that which was lost.” In this way we know “God is love:” “He laid down His life for us.”
We find in the first two parables the expression of His pure sovereign goodness interested in us. It was what Christ did. The Shepherd goes after the sheep, and “laid it on His shoulders rejoicing.” Here it set no foot to ground: not a word of what the sheep did, nor even of its happiness. It is just the same with the piece of silver. The woman cared for it, and could not give it up till she found it, and then was happy about it. The thing that runs through these parables is, that it is God's happiness to bring us back.
The truth that we have in the third parable is, that God's own happiness is to have us. There is nothing said about the prodigal's happiness, but about the father's: “God is love.” In the third are details in connection with his failure and his reception. The reception when he comes back is from the same love, the same grace, that sought the lost in the two first. He took his own way, and left his father's house, and tried to please himself. That is what men are trying to do—what he did, giving up God and His authority. Men do not believe that God is looking to their happiness, and they look to it themselves. So it was with Eve in Eden, when confidence in God was lost; she must try to make herself happy. The beginning of our ruin was losing confidence in God. Christ displays God in a way to win confidence in Him, manifesting such love and goodness that the heart should say, I can trust Him. This is not peace, it does not purge the conscience but awakens it. It is such a revelation of God to the heart as produces confidence. “I will arise and go to my Father:” such is the effect of God's light and God's love. You cannot be blessed with God (and you cannot be at all blessed without Him) but according to what He is.
If you come to God, you must come in the light that manifests everything. When God reveals Himself, He is light. It makes us see all we are. But He is love; and this is what brought the light, and where that is revealed to the heart, one is willing to receive the light. God cannot reveal Himself without being both. I trust the love that has brought the light into my conscience.
(To be continued D.V.).

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, 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. 23:23), “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. 5:21)? 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. 9:24).
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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