NOW AND THEN
TIME IN THE LIGHT OF ETERNITY*
(Based on an Old Manuscript, Unsigned and Updated)
Read Luke 12
TEXT 2 Cor. 4: 18
[* Note. I have made a number of alterations to this writing: the reader may read it in its initial form, by clicking the hyper link at the end of this tract. - Ed.]
"So we fix our eyes not on [Gk. 'While we do not consider'] what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal," (2 Cor. 4: 18).*
(* The N.I.V. translation is used throughout, with reference to a Greek Interlinear.)
Of most solemn and searching character are the principles of truth laid down in this chapter (Luke 12). Their practical bearing is such as to render them, in a day like the present, of the very last importance. Worldly-mindedness and carnality cannot live in the light of the truth here set forth. They are withered up by the roots. If one were asked to give a brief and comprehensive title to this most precious section of inspiration, it might be entitled, "NOW and THEN; or TIME in the light of ETERNITY."
The Lord Jesus evidently designed to set His disciples in the light of that world [or ‘Age’] where everything is the direct opposite of that which obtains here [and now]. He purposed to bring their hearts under the holy influence of unseen things, and their lives under the power and authority of heavenly principles. Such being the faithful purpose of the Divine Teacher, He lays the solid foundation for His superstructure of doctrine with these searching words, "Be on your guard [Gk. 'take heed to yourselves'] against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy" (verse 1).
There must be no undercurrent in the soul. The deep springs of thought must be laid bare. We must allow the pure beams of heaven's light to penetrate the most profound depths of our moral being. We must not have any discrepancy between the hidden judgment of the soul and the style of our phraseology, between the bent of the life and the profession of the lips. In a word, we specially need the grace of "a noble and good heart" (Luke 8: 15) in order to profit by this wondrous compendium of practical truth.
We are too apt to give an indifferent hearing or a cold assent to home truth. We do not like it. We prefer interesting speculations about the mere letter of the Scripture, points of doctrine, or questions of prophecy, because we can indulge these in immediate connection with all sorts of worldly-mindedness, covetous practices, and self indulgence. But ponderous principles of truth, bearing down upon the conscience in all their magnitude and flesh-cutting power, who can bear? - save only those who through grace, are seeking to purge themselves from "the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."
This yeast is of a most specious character; it takes various shapes, and is, therefore most dangerous. Indeed wherever it exists there is a most positive and insurmountable barrier placed before the soul in its progress in experimental knowledge and practical holiness. If I do not expose my whole soul to the action of divine truth; if I am closing up some corner of crevice from the light thereof; if I am cherishing some secret reserve; if I am dishonestly seeking to accommodate the truth to my own standard of practice, or parry its keen edge from my conscience - then, assuredly, I am defiled by the yeast of hypocrisy, and growth in likeness to Christ is a moral impossibility.
Hence, therefore, it is imperative upon every disciple of Christ to search and see that nothing of this abominable yeast is allowed in the secret chambers of his heart. Let us, by the grace of God, put and keep it far away, so that we may be able on all occasions to say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."
But not only is hypocrisy totally opposed to spiritual progress, it also entirely fails in attaining the object which it proposes to itself; for "there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known." Everyone will find their level, and every thought will be brought to light. What the truth would do now, the Judgment Seat will do then. Every grade and shade of hypocrisy will be unmasked by the light which shall shine forth from the Judgment Seat of Christ. Nothing will be allowed to escape. All will be reality then, though there is so much fallacy now.
Moreover, everything will get its proper name then, though it be misnamed now. Worldly-mindedness is called prudence; a grasping, covetous spirit is called foresight. Thus it is now, but then it will be quite the reverse. Before the Judgment Seat all things will be seen in their true colours and called by their true names. Wherefore it is the wisdom of the disciple to act in the light of that day [now], when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed [then]. "We must all (saints and sinners - though not at the same time, nor on the same ground) appear [Gk. - 'be made manifested'] before the judgement seat of Christ" (2 Cor. 5: 10; Rom. 14: 10).
Should this disturb the disciples' mind? Assuredly not, if the heart is purged of the yeast of hypocrisy, and if the soul be so thoroughly grounded in the great foundation truth set forth in 2 Cor. 5, namely, that Christ is the believers' life, and Christ the believer's righteousness, so that the disciple can say, "What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is plain to your conscience" (verse 11).
But if the Christian is deficient in this peace of conscience and transparent honesty of heart, there is no doubt that the thought of the Judgment Seat will disturb the spirit. Hence we see that in the Lord's teaching in Luke 12 He sets the conscience of His disciples directly in the light of the Judgement Seat: "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell [Gk. 'Gehenna'].¹ Yes I tell you, fear him" (Verse 5).
[NOTE. 1. "'Gehenna,' is 'the New Testament Greek name for the valley of
the Son of Hinnom. ".. .The valley
is itself open, and is approached from the Zion Gate. It joins the narrow
Gehenna was desecrated and made into a garbage and rubbish
heap that was kept burning; these flames were an image of the fires of hell [Greek, 'Hades'],
and Gehenna thus came
to mean "hell" ["Hades"] (cf. Matt. 5: 22, 29, 30; Matt,25:
30, 46; Matt. 10: 28). Thus the foul
"The fear of man will prove to be a snare" (Prov. 29: 25) and is closely connected with "the yeast of the Pharisees". But "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," (Prov. 1: 7.) and causes believers always to carry themselves - so to think, speak, and act, - in the full blaze of the light of Christ's Judgment Seat. This imparts character to the soul, and by keeping it under the searching power of divine light has the effect of making everything and everyone manifest.
There is nothing that tends to rob disciples of Christ of the proper dignity of their discipleship, as does their walking before the eyes or the thoughts of men. So long as we are doing so, we cannot be unshackled followers of our heavenly Master. Moreover, the evil of walking before men is morally allied with the evil of seeking to hide our ways from God. Both partake of "the yeast of the Pharisees," and both will find their proper place before the Judgment Seat.
Why should we fear man? Why should we regard their opinions? If their opinions will not bear to be tried in His presence Who has power to cast into Gehenna they are worth nothing; for it is with Him we have to do; "I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court" (1 Cor. 4: 3). Man may have a judgment seat now, but he will not have it then. He may set up his tribunal in time, but he will have no tribunal in eternity. Why, therefore, should we shape our way in reference to a tribunal so frail and evanescent? Oh let us challenge our hearts as to this. God grant us grace to act NOW, in reference to THEN; to live here with our eye on the hereafter*; to look at time in the light of eternity.
and throught the remainder of this writing, the word ‘hereafter’
refers to Christ’s
The poor unbelieving heart may enquire; "If I thus rise above human thoughts and human opinions, how shall I get on in a scene where those very thoughts and opinions prevail?" This is a very natural question, but it meets its full and satisfactory answer from the Master's lips; yes, it would even seem as though He had graciously anticipated this rising element of unbelief when, having carried His disciples above the hazy mists of time and set them in the clear searching, powerful light of eternity. He added, "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (verses 6, 7).
Here the heart is taught not only to fear God, but also to confide in Him; it is not only warned but tranquillized. "Fear," and "don't be afraid," may seem a paradox to flesh and blood; but to faith it is no paradox. THE BELIEVER WHO FEARS GOD MOST WILL FEAR HIS CIRCUMSTANCES AND OTHERS LEAST. The believer is at once the most dependant and independent person in the world - dependant upon God, independent of circumstances and others. The latter is consequent on the former; real dependence produces real independence. Mark the ground of the believer's peace. The One who has power to throw into Gehenna, the only One whom the Christian is to fear, has actually taken the trouble to number the hairs of our head. He surely has not taken this trouble for the purpose of letting us perish - [outside of His will] - here. By no means. The minuteness of our Father's care should silence every doubt that might arise in our hearts. There is nothing too small and there is nothing too great for Him. The countless orbs that move through infinite space, and a falling sparrow are alike to Him. With equal facility His infinite mind can take in the course of everlasting ages, and the hairs of our head. This is the stable foundation on which Christ founds His "do not be afraid," and don't be anxious.
We frequently fail in the practical application of this divine principle. We may admire it as a principle; but it is only in the application of it that its real beauty is seen or felt. If we do not put it into practice we are but painting sunbeams on canvas, while we famish beneath the chilling influences of our own unbelief. Bold testimony for Christ is connected with holy elevation above man's thoughts, and with this calm reliance upon our Father's minute and tender care. If my heart is lifted above the influence of the fear of man, and sweetly calmed by the assurance that God takes account of the hairs of my head, then I am in a condition of soul to confess Christ before men (see verses 8 & 9).
Nor need I be careful as to the result of this confession, for so long as God wants me here, He will maintain me here. "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say" (verses 11 & 12). The only proper ground for testimony for Christ is to be fully delivered from human influence and established in unqualified confidence in God. In fact, I am inclined to say, so far as I am influenced by, or am a debtor to, others, so far am I disqualified from being a servant of Christ; but I can only be effectually delivered from human influence by a living faith in God.
When God fills the heart, there is no room for the creature; and we may be perfectly sure of this, that no person has ever taken the trouble to count the hairs of our head; we have not even taken the trouble ourselves; but God has, and therefore I can trust God more than anyone. God is perfectly sufficient for every exigency, great or small, and we only want to trust Him to know what He is.
True, He may and does use people as instruments; but if we lean on men instead of God, if we lean on instruments instead of on the hand that uses them, we bring down a curse upon us, for it is written: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord" (Jer. 17: 5). The Lord used the ravens to feed Elijah; but Elijah never thought of trusting in the ravens. Thus it should ever be. Faith leans on God, counts on Him, clings to Him, trusts in Him, waits for Him, ever leaves a clear stage for Him to act on. Faith does not obstruct the glorious path by any creature-confidence; it allows Him to display Himself in all the glorious reality of what He is; it leaves everything to Him; and moreover, if it gets into deep and rough waters, it will always be seen upon the crest of the loftiest billow, blazing in perfect repose upon God and His powerful acting’s. Such is faith - that precious principle; the only thing in this world that gives God and the creature their respective places.
While the Lord Jesus was in the act of pouring forth these unearthly principles a true child of earth intrudes upon Him with a question about property; "Someone in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, tell by brother to divide the inheritance with me. " (verse 13). How marvellously little did he know of the true character of that heavenly Man who stood before him! He knew nothing of the profound mystery of His being, or the object of His heavenly mission. He surely had not come from the bosom of the Father to settle lawsuits about property, nor to arbitrate between two covetous men. The spirit of covetousness was manifestly in the whole affair. Both defendant and plaintiff were governed by covetousness. One wanted to grasp and the other wanted to keep; and what was this but covetousness?
"Jesus replied, 'Man,
who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?' "
(verse 14). It was not a question of
which was the right or which was the wrong as to the property. According to Christ's pure and heavenly
doctrine, they were both wrong. In the light of eternity, a few
acres of land were of little worth: and as to Christ himself, He was not only
teaching principles entirely hostile to all questions of earthly possession,
but in His own person and character He set an example of the very
opposite. He did not go to law about the inheritance. He was "Heir of all things" - the
[*That is, into His glory upon this earth during the ‘Age to come’.]
in the doctrine and practice of the Heavenly Man we see the true exhibition of
the principles of God. He would not arbitrate, but yet He taught truth
which would entirely do away with the need of arbitration. If the
principles of the
then the Christians, being in the Kingdom [now
in mystery], are bound to be governed by the principles of the Kingdom [then, when it will have come in manifestation],
and to carry them out at all costs; for in exact proportion that they fail to
exhibit these principles now they
are robbing their own souls of present and future blessing then, and marring their testimony. Hence, when, Christians
going to law now are not governed in
so doing by the principles of the
I say nothing of the moral instincts of the Divine nature, which would surely lead one to apprehend with accuracy the gross inconsistency of a person who professes to be saved by grace going to law with a fellow-neighbour - of one who, while he owns that, if he had his right from the hand of God, he would be in hell, nevertheless insists upon exacting his rights from his neighbour - of one who has been forgiven ten thousand talents, but yet seizes his fellow by the throat for a paltry hundred pence (Matt. 18: 28).
these things I shall not dwell. I simply look at the question of going to
law in the light of the coming Kingdom, and in the light of eternity; and if it
be true that in the Kingdom of God there is no need for courts of law, then I
press it solemnly upon your conscience, in the presence of God, that you, as a
subject of that Kingdom, are totally wrong in going to law. True it will lead to loss and suffering now;
but then who is worthy of the
[* Keep in mind:"God will give the strength to resist any opposition that may come: It is forbearance when opposed that commends the truth confessed" - G. H. LANG.]
those who are governed by the things of time go to law, but the Christian is,
or ought to be, governed by the things of eternity. People go to law now, but it will not be so then;
and the Christian is to act now as
if it were then. He
belongs to the Kingdom in mystery now;
and it is just because the
I would press this upon your conscience. Let it have its full weight. Do not trifle with the truth. There is nothing which so tends to hinder the freshness and power, growth and prosperity of the Kingdom of God in the heart, as the refusal to carry out the principles of that Kingdom in the conduct.
Christians should be governed by the principles of the Kingdom in everything. If they are engaged in business, they should conduct the business as children of God, and servants of Christ. They should not have a Christian character on the Lord's day, and a commercial character the remainder of the week. I should have the Lord with me in my shop, warehouse, counting house, or office. It is my privilege to depend upon God in my business; but in order to depend upon Him, my business must be of such a nature, and conducted upon such a principle, as He can own. If I say "I must do business as others do business," I abandon true Christian ground, and get into the current of the world's thoughts.
For example, if I resort to puffing and pushing in the energy of the flesh, I am evidently not working in simple dependence upon God, but rather depending upon the world's principle. But some will say, "How am I to get on in business?" I reply by putting another question, namely, "What is your object? is it food and clothing, or is it to hoard up?" If the former, God has promised it; so that you are in the way of His appointment, you have only to depend on him. Faith always puts the soul on a totally different ground from that occupied by the world, no matter what our calling may be.
The simple fact is, we want conscience. Yes, a tender, exercised, honest conscience, which will respond truly and accurately to the appeals of God's pure and holy word, is, I believe, the great and pressing need of the present time. It is not so much principles we need, as the grace, the energy, the holy decision, that will carry them out, cost what it may. We admit the truth of the principles, which most plainly cut at the very things which we ourselves are either directly or indirectly doing.
We admit the principles of grace, and yet we live by the strict maintaince of righteousness. For example, how often does it happen that persons are teaching and professing to enjoy grace, while at the very moment they are insisting upon their rights in reference to their tenants; and either directly themselves or indirectly by means of their agents dispossessing poor people, un-roofing their houses, and sending them out, in destitution and misery, upon a cold, heartless world! This is a plain palpable case, of which, alas! there have been far too many painful illustrations in the world lately.
And why put cases? Because one finds at the present day such melancholy deficiency in sensibility of conscience that unless the thing is brought home plainly to oneself it will not be understood. Like David our indignation is worked up to the highest pitch by a picture of moral turpitude, so long as we do not see SELF in that picture. It needs some Nathan to sound in our ears, "You are the man!" in order to prostrate us in the dust with a smitten conscience and a true self-abhorrence.
Thus at the present day, eloquent sermons are preached, eloquent lectures are delivered, and beautiful treatises are written about the principle of grace, and yet the courts of law are frequented, attorneys, lawyers, sheriffs, agents and subagents, are called to requisition, with all their terrible machinery, in order to assert our rights; but we feel it not, because we are not present to witness the distress and hear the groans of homeless mothers and children.
we wonder, therefore, that true practical Christianity is at a
low ebb? Is it any marvel that leanness, barrenness, drought,
poverty, coldness, deadness, darkness, ignorance, and spiritual depression and
blindness should be so prevalent? What else could be expected, when the
principles of the
is it unrighteous to seek to get our own, and to make use of the machinery within our reach, in order to do so?
Surely not. What is here maintained is, that no
matter how well defined and clearly established the right may be, the
assertion thereof is diametrically opposed to the present order of the
But how difficult to define this "covetousness." How hard to bring it home to the conscience! It is as someone has said of worldliness, "shaded off gradually from white to jet black," so that it is only as we are imbued with the spirit and mind of heaven, and thoroughly schooled in the principles of eternity, that we shall be able to detect its working. And not only so, but our hearts must, in this also, be purged from the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. The Pharisees were covetous and could turn Christ's doctrine into ridicule (Luke 16: 14), and so it will be with all those who are trained by their yeast. They will not see the just application of truth, either as to covetousness or anything else. They will seek to define it in such a way as will suit themselves. They will interpret, modify, pare down, accommodate until they have fully succeeded in getting their conscience from under the keen edge of God's truth; and thus they get into the power and under the influence of the enemy. I must either be governed by the pure truth of the word, or by impure principles of the world, which, as we very well know, are forged in Satan's workshop, and brought into the world to be used in doing his work.
the parable of the rich man, which the
Lord here puts forth in illustration of covetousness, we see a character which
the world respects and admires. But in this, as in everything else
brought forward in this searching chapter, we see the difference between NOW
and THEN. All depends upon the light in which you look at people
and things; if you merely look at them NOW, it may be all very well to
get on in trade, and enlarge one's concerns and make provision for the
future. The man who does this is counted wise NOW; but he will be
a "fool" THEN. Title
deeds, debentures, bank receipts, insurance policies, are current coin NOW,
but they will be rejected and useless THEN; they are genuine NOW,
they will be spurious THEN. Thus it is, let us remember, that we
must make God's THEN to be our NOW; we must look at the things of time in the light of the coming Kingdom
and Eternity, the things of earth in
the light of heaven. This is true wisdom which does not confine the heart
to that system of things which obtains "under the
sun," but conducts it into the light, and leaves it under the power
of "that (unseen)
world", where the principles of the
What should we think of courts of law and insurance offices if we look at them in the light of eternity? It should be a serious question with the child of God, ere he avails of an insurance company, whether in the matter of fire or life, "Am I hereby distrusting God? or, am I seeking by human agency to counteract divine visitations?" There is something sadly anomalous in a Christian insuring his/her live. We profess to be dead, and that Christ is our life; why then do we talk of insuring our life?
But many will say, "We cannot bring Christianity into such things." I ask, Where are we to leave it? Is Christianity a convenient sort of garment, which we put on on the Lord's day, and at the close of that day take it off, fold it carefully up, and lay it on the shelf till the following Lord's day? It is too often thus. People have two characters; and what is this but yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy? Insurance offices are all very well for the men and women of the world, who should certainly avail themselves of them, inasmuch as everything around and within is so uncertain. But to the children of God ALL IS SURE. God has insured their lives forever; and hence, they should regard insurance offices as so many depots of unbelief.
"The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop" (verse 16). What sin is there in being a successful agriculturist or merchant? If God blesses the believers' labours, should they not rejoice? Truly so; but mark the moral progress of a covetous heart. "He thought to himself " [Gk., 'reasoned in himself']. He did not think or reason in the presence of God; he did not think under the mighty influences of the coming Kingdom or the eternal world. No, "he thought to himself" - within the narrow compass of his selfish heart. Such was his range; and, therefore, we need not marvel at his practical conclusion: "What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops" (verse 17). What! was there no way of using his resources with a view to God's future? Alas, no! Man has a future, or thinks he has, on which he counts, and for which he makes provision: but self is the only object which figures in that future - self, whether in my own person, or that of my wife or child, which is morally the same thing.
grand object in God's future is Christ; and true wisdom will lead us to fix our
eye on Him and make Him our undivided object for time and eternity, for now and for then. But this, in the judgment of a worldly man, is
nonsense. Yes, heaven's wisdom is nonsense in the judgment of
earth. Hearken to the wisdom of earth, and the wisdom of those who are
under the influence of worldly maxims and habits; "And he said, This
is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build
greater ones, and there I will store all my grain and my
goods" (verse 18).
Thus we have what he thought, what he "said,"
and what he did; and there is a
melancholy consistency between his thoughts, his words, and his acts. There,
in my self-built storehouse, "I will store all."
Miserable treasure-house to contain the ALL of an ever-continuing
soul! God was not an item in the catalogue. God was neither his
treasury nor his treasure, and not a thought about His coming Millennial or
This is plain; and it is always thus with a mere man of the world; and the worldly-minded backslider, and the apostate Christian: "And I'll say to myself, 'You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat drink and be merry."
Thus we see that a worldly man's provision is only "for many years." Make the best of it, it cannot go beyond that narrow limit. It cannot, even in his own thought about it, reach unto that boundless eternity, which stretches beyond this contracted span of time. And this provision he offers to his soul, as the basis of "its ease and merriment." Miserable fatuity. Senseless calculation.
How different is the address which the enlightened believer may present to his soul! He, too, may say to his soul, "Soul, eat of the fatness of God's storehouse, and drink of the river of His pleasures (for all eternity), and rejoice in His accomplished eternal salvation; Christ's finished work is the ground of your peace; and His Millennial glory the object of your HOPE" (Luke 12: 31; Matt. 6: 33).
This is a different character of address. This shows the difference between now and then. It is a fatal mistake not to make Christ the Crucified, Christ the Risen, Christ the Glorified the Alpha and Omega of all our calculations. To paint a picture of the future and not to place Christ in the foreground is senseless, for the moment God enters the scene, the picture is hopelessly marred.
"But God said to him, You 'fool! This very night your life (Greek, 'soul') will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' " And, then, mark the moral of all this: "This is how it will be with anyone" no matter who, saint or sinner, "who stores things up for himself but is not rich toward God" (verse 21). The man who hoards up is virtually making a god of his hoard. His mind is tranquillized as to the future when he thinks of his hoard, for if he had not that hoard he would be uneasy.
It is sufficient to put a natural man entirely out of his reason to give him nothing but God to depend upon. Anything but that for him: old pieces of parchment in the shape of title deeds, in which some clever lawyer may finally pick a hole and prove it worthless. He will lean on them, yes, die in peace if he can leave such to his heirs. Give him an insurance policy, anything, in short, but God for the natural heart. In the judgment of nature ALL IS REALITY SAVE THE ONLY REALITY.
This proves what nature's true condition is. It cannot trust God. It talks about Him, but it cannot trust Him. The very basis of man's moral constitution is distrust in God; and one of the fairest fruits of regeneration is the capacity to confide in God for everything. "Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you" (Psalm 9: 10). None else can.
However my main object is to deal with Christian consciences. I ask, therefore, in plain terms, is it in keeping with Christ's doctrine, as set forth in the gospel, for His disciples to lay up treasure for themselves on the earth? It would seem almost an absurdity to put such a question, in the face of Luke 12 and parallel scriptures. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matt. 6: 19).
is plain enough, and only wants an honest conscience to apply it, in order to
produce its proper results. It is directly contrary to the doctrine of
"Then Jesus said to his disciples: 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes' " (verse 22, 23). "Do not be anxious about anything;" says the Spirit by the Apostle. Why? Because God is caring for you. There is no use of two thinking about the same thing, when one can do everything, and the other can do nothing. "In everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4: 6, 7).
This is the solid foundation of peace of heart, which so few really enjoy. Many have peace of conscience through faith in the sufficiency of Christ's work, who do not enjoy peace of heart through faith in the sufficiency of God's care. And often we go to pray about our difficulties and trials, and we rise from our knees as troubled as we knelt down. We profess to put our affairs into the hands of God, but we have no notion of leaving them there; and consequently we do not have peace of heart.
is a common error among Christians. We profess to be looking to the
Eternal Fountain; but the eye of the soul is askance upon some creature stream.
Thus God is practically shut out; our souls are not delivered, and we do not
enjoy peace of heart. After relieving the minds of the disciples in
reference to present supplies and future treasure, the Son of God says, "But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well"
(verse 31). But what
there is another ground on which we are exhorted to be free from care, and that
is, the utter worthlessness of that care. "Who of you by worrying can add a single
hour to his life? Since you cannot do
this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?" (verses 25, 26). We gain nothing by our care; and
by indulging therein we only unfit ourselves for seeking the future
It is important to understand that we are either leaning on God or on circumstances. It will not do, by any means, to say that we are leaning on God and circumstances. It must be God only, or not all. It is all very well to talk of faith when our hearts are, in reality, leaning on the creature, in some shape or form. We should sift and try our ways closely as to this; for inasmuch as absolute dependence upon God is one of the special characteristics of the divine life, and one of the fundamental principles of the kingdom, it surely becomes us to look well to it that we are not presenting any barrier to our progress in that heavenly quality.
True it is most trying to flesh and blood to have no settled thing to lean upon. [We all feel for the elderly woman who had taken her last pound out of the Savings Bank and exclaimed, "Now I have no one but the Almighty to trust to." A truly dreadful predicament!] The heart will quiver as we stand upon the shore of circumstances, and look forth upon that unknown ocean, unknown to all but faith, and where nothing but simple faith can live for an hour. The heart longs for some shred of the creature, some plank from the raft of circumstances, anything but absolute dependence upon God. But oh! let God only be known, and He must be trusted; let Him be trusted, and He must be known.
Still the poor heart will yearn after something settled, something tangible. If it be a question of maintenance, it will earnestly desire some settled income, a certain sum invested in government stocks, an annuity of some kind or other. Hence it is that worldliness prevails to such a fearful extent amongst Christians.
Faith alone can overcome the world, and purify the heart. It brings the soul from under the influence of time and keeps it habitually in the light of eternity. It is occupied not with now, but with then; not with here but hereafter; not with earth, but with heaven; not with this evil age but with the one to come. Thus faith overcomes the world, and purifies the heart. It hears and believes God's word: "Do not be afraid LITTLE flock,* for your father has been pleased to give YOU the kingdom" (verse 32). Now if "the kingdom" fills my soul's vision, I have no room for anything beside. I can let go present shadows in the prospect of future realities. I can give up an evanescent now, in the prospect of life then.
[* The rich young ruler was told to
"sell everything and give to the poor."
He refused and preferred to rule now rather than then.
"How hard it is for the rich to enter
Wherefore the Lord immediately adds, "Sell you possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure [Gk. 'unfailing'] in heaven [Gk. 'in the heavens'] that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (verses 33, 34). If I have treasure on earth, no matter in what shape, my heart will be there also, and I shall be essentially a worldly man. How shall I most effectually empty my heart of the world? By getting it filled with Christ. He is the true Treasure, which neither the world's "purses" nor its storehouses can contain. The world has its "barns" and its "purses" in which it holds its goods, but its barns will fall, and its bags will wax old; and then what will become of the treasure? It will be given to obedient disciples to enjoy. Truly, they who build for themselves NOW beneath the skies, BUILD TOO LOW.
Yet people will build and hoard up, if not for themselves, at least for their children; or in other words, their second selves. If I hoard for my children, I am hoarding for myself; and not only so, but in numerous cases, the hoard, in place of proving a blessing, proves a positive curse to the child, by taking him off the proper ground appointed for him, as well as for all, in God's moral government, namely "WORK, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something [not to hoard up for himself, or for his second self but] to share with those in need" (Eph. 4: 28). This is God's appointed ground for every man; and therefore, if I hoard for my child, I am taking both myself and him off the divine ground, and the consequence will be a forfeiture of blessing.
Do I taste the surpassing sweetness of obedience to and dependence upon God, and shall I deprive my child thereof? Shall I rob him/her, virtually, as so far as in me lies, of God, and give him as a substitute a few old bags, an assurance policy, or some musty parchments? Would this be acting a father's part? Surely not. It would be selling THEN for NOW. It would be like the profane and sensual Esau, selling the birthright for a morsel of meat (Heb. 12: 16): giving up one's future inheritance in the millennial kingdom then for one's present sensual gratification of the flesh now.
But why need I hoard up for my children? If I can trust God for myself, why not trust Him for them likewise? Cannot the One who has fed and clothed me, feed and clothe them also? Is His hand shortened, or His treasury exhausted? Shall I make them idlers, or give them money instead of God? Oh! let us bear in mind this simple fact, that if we cannot trust God now for our little ones, we do not trust Him for ourselves. The moment I begin to hoard up a penny, I have, in principle, departed from the life of faith. I may call my hoard by all the fair names that were ever invented by worldly minds or unbelieving hearts, but for all that the unvarnished truth of the matter is this, my hoard is my God: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (verse 34).
Let not the truth be misunderstood or misinterpreted. I am bound, by the powerful obligations of the word and example of God, to provide for my own; for, "If anyone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1Tim. 5: 8). This is plain enough, and, moreover, I am bound to fit my children, so far as God's principles admit, and my province extends, for any service to which He may be graciously pleased to call them. But I am nowhere instructed in the word of God to give my children a hoard in place of an honest occupation, with simple dependence upon a heavenly Father. As a matter of actual fact, few children ever thank their fathers for inherited wealth; whereas they will ever remember, with gratitude and veneration, having been led, by parental care and management, into a godly course of life for themselves.
I do not, however, forget a passage which has often been used, or rather abused, to defend the worldly, unbelieving practice of hoarding up. I allude to 2 Cor. 12: 14. "Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children." How glad people are when they get a semblance of scripture authority for their worldliness! In this passage it is but a semblance of authority; for the apostle is certainly not teaching Christians to hoard up - he is not teaching heavenly people to lay up treasures upon the earth for any object. He simply refers to a common practice in the world, and to a common feeling in nature, in order to illustrate his own mode of dealing with the Corinthians, who were his children in the faith.
He had not burdened them, and he would not burden them, for he was the parent. Now, if the saints of God are satisfied to go back to the world and its maxims, to nature and its ways, then let them hoard up with all diligence, let them "heap treasure together for the last days," but let them remember that the moth, the canker, the worm, and the rust will be the end of it all. Oh! for a heart to value those immortal "purses" in which faith lays up its unfading treasure, those heavenly storehouses were faith stores all its goods. Then shall we pursue a holy and an elevated path through this present evil world - then, too, shall we be lifted upon faith's vigorous pinion above the dark atmosphere which enwraps this Christ-rejecting, God-hating world, and which is impregnated and polluted by those two elements, namely, hatred to God and love of gold.
Lord Jesus, the Divine, the Heavenly Teacher, having sought to rise, by His
unearthly principles, the thoughts and affections of His disciples to their
proper centre and level, gives them two things to do, and these two things may
be expressed in the words of the Holy Spirit, "To
serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from
heaven" (1Thess. 1: 9, 10).
The entire teaching of Luke 12 from verse 35 to the end, may
be ranged under the above comprehensive heads, to which I call your prayerful
attention. We have no one else to serve but "the living and true God," and nothing to wait for - nothing
worth waiting for, but, "His Son from heaven."
May the Holy
Spirit clothe His own word with heavenly power, so that it may come home to the
heart and conscience, and tell upon the life of every child of God, so that the
name of the Lord Jesus may be magnified, and His truth illustrated in the
conduct of those who belong to Him. Some may say, "This is a hard teaching [Gk. 'word'].
Who can accept [Gk. 'hear'] it?" (John 6: 60).
You may be disposed to ask, "What would the world come to, if such principles were
universally dominant?" I reply, it would cease to be
governed by Satan, and would be "the
But in closing, let me ask you, To which kingdom do you belong? Which is it with you - NOW or THEN? Are you living for time or eternity, earth or heaven, Satan or Christ? Be honest with yourself in the presence of God. Remember, "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known." The judgment seat will bring all to light. Therefore, I say, be honest with yourself, and ask your heart. Where am I? How do I stand? What is the ground of my peace? What are my prospects for the future?
Do not imagine that God wants you to buy heaven with a surrender of earth. No, He points you to Christ, Who by bearing sin in His own body on the cross, has opened the way for the believing sinner to come into the presence of God in the power of divine righteousness. You are not asked to do or be anything; but the gospel of grace tells you what Jesus is, and what He has done; and if you believe this in your heart and confess it with your mouth, you shall be saved.
Such is the infinite merit of His perfect sacrifice, that all who believe are justified from all things - yes, are accepted in Him - stand in His acceptableness before God, and can never come into judgment as touching eternal security, for they have passed out of death into life (John 5: 24). This is the gospel of grace - the glad tidings of eternal salvation, which God the Holy Spirit came down from heaven to preach to every creature. "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" Believe and live!
But having accepted God's 'free gift' of justification and 'eternal life', then remember that the way to develop and enjoy this new life, both now and then (in the age to come), is to obey the laws of the Kingdom of God, by practising the precepts and obeying the commands of the Lord Jesus, the King of that Kingdom, such as have been here considered. For He has said : "Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you" [my disciples] "that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5: 19, 20).