messages and this ministry are based upon a three-fold
supposition, or assumption:
1. That you have a very real concern to know the will of
2. That you are quite prepared to consider anything that
may be a help to you in that direction.
3. That you are of a mind to obey any light that the Lord
may give as to His will.
Given that foundation, I think the Lord will find a clear
way of meeting us and speaking to us.
The business of any servant of the Lord is, perhaps in
many ways, to bring His people to know what is His will
concerning them, and it is on the heart of this servant
of the Lord, if He will help, to give you a fuller
understanding of what that good and perfect will of God
is. We will come back to that more specifically as we go
The Bible, which is the charter of the Christian faith,
is altogether occupied with that one thing. You can read
through your Bible, and perhaps you will find some of it
rather tedious, and other things you might not
understand, but the whole Bible, altogether, is concerned
with that one thing - the will of God. So it is as well
to read the Bible everywhere in that relationship: What
has this to do with the will of God?
MOVING ACCORDING TO PURPOSE
words, the Bible is a revelation of God moving according
to purpose. That is only another way of speaking about
the will of God. God is seen, from the first words in the
Bible to the last, moving according to purpose, moving IN
and WITH purpose. He is a God who is motivated by
one final and all-inclusive object, which we understand
in New Testament language as God's eternal purpose.
The first section of the Bible, which consists of the
first five Books, shows us, clearly, fully and
meticulously, God moving according to purpose. It is a
section of movement forward, and although in the fifth
book, the Book of Deuteronomy, there is a retrospective
aspect, a looking back with this word: "Thou shalt
remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led
thee" (8:2), even that retrospective aspect has a
forward aspect connected with it, for the remembering is
related to what is yet to be. As you know, it is the book
of people between a past history and a new history of the
future, and it is looking back to pick up the lessons of
the past in order to carry them into the future. So we
move into the Book of Joshua with all that the past
history has taught as the foundation, and how meticulous
the Lord is in that book of Deuteronomy! He is
reiterating and re-emphasizing, and laying a very sound
and very particular foundation for the future. It is
important to note that in the light of what we are going
to say, for we are going to be occupied with the laws of
God by which His will - which is His purpose - is
realized, fulfilled and accomplished in His people. So
all this first section has the future in view, with the
will of God governing.
The last section of the Old Testament, the Prophets, is
occupied with the tragedy of lost purpose. The cry of the
Prophets is that God's will has not been realized and
fulfilled. It is a tragic cry of failure and
disappointment, and you must listen to it, for as you
listen to these Prophets and hear their anguished cry
over these people, you are hearing just this: 'What God
meant has not been realized, and that is a terrible
thing!' The Prophets have a voice of tragedy, pathos and
anguish, because God has been disappointed over His
purpose in these people, and they have missed what He
intended for them.
So we have the first and last sections of the Old
Testament. We are not here occupied with the whole of the
Old Testament, but just notice these in connection with
the will of God. Of course, I am talking about the big,
comprehensive will of God, not about what we might call
the little wills of God with which we are occupied every
day when we say: 'What is the Lord's will for me in this,
or that?' No, that is not what I am talking about but,
mark you, all those expressions of the Divine will in the
particular matters and situations are gathered into the
big will, and until you get into that big will, you
really do not have the ground for the little wills of
God, the particular application of that will.
Turn over to the New Testament, and in the first section
God is taking up His purpose again. Now He is taking it
up in the Person of His Son, and in Him the purpose and
will of God is embodied and personified. Now it is all
gathered into a PERSON. It has been expressed, as
the writer of the Hebrew Letter says, in many different
ways and "by divers portions" at different
times. Now the whole thing is summed up in the Person of
Jesus Christ, who says: "I am come... to do thy will
O God" (Hebrews 10:7). This whole will and purpose
of God, therefore, is personified, or incarnated, in
Jesus Christ, God's Son; and although you have heard that
a thousand times and have listened to many, many messages
about it, it may not have occurred to you that there is
one statement by the Lord Jesus which comprehends all
this: "I am the way, and the truth, and the
life" (John 14:6). That is a comprehensive statement
as to the whole will of God.
AM THE WAY"
What do you
have a way for? To get somewhere! A way implies a goal, a
moving toward an object. 'I am the way of this eternal
purpose of God. I am the way of its realization. I am the
way, the embodiment of the will of God.' "I am come
to do thy will, O my God." The way is a Person.
AM THE TRUTH"
clause, or definition, is so immense that it needs many
hours! Men have been preaching on it for centuries. In
effect the Lord Jesus is saying: 'I am set in a realm
which has been deceived and led away from the will of
God, from the Divine purpose. I am in a world that is now
a lie in its constitution. I am the truth over against
all that which is false in the human race, in the
creation, in this universe.' If the will of God is
all-comprehending, vast, and great, the lie of the devil
is an immense thing, and it is something that has to be
overcome in you, in me, and in the whole race. Truth has
to be put into our constitution to destroy the lie that
I dare not dwell upon that, but just indicate it in the
connection with which we are concerned - the will of God.
"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make
you free" (John 8:32). We talk about 'conversion',
and, you know, a fundamental factor in conversion, in
turning round in the opposite way, is turning from what
is false to what is true, coming INTO the truth of
God, as to why we have a being in His purpose, why He is
dealing with us as He is according to His great will, and
what it all means. Do you and I not need every day to
know the good of that conversion, the real and true
meaning of God in Christ for us?
AM THE LIFE"
We have far
too small an idea of that! There is a marvellous
statement in the Letter of Paul to the Colossians, where
he speaks of the life which God foreordained unto His
glory. Before ever the world was created and man upon it,
God's thought was centred in this thing called 'life'. It
was in His eternal counsels. That is the battleground of
the ages, and is the key to so much - what God means by
life, the life of God's eternal purpose, the life of His
all-captivating will, the life which the Lord Jesus is.
This is the day which is called 'Good Friday' and we were
reading this morning of the Lord Jesus, having received
the sentence of crucifixion, walking toward the Hill with
Simon carrying His Cross, and the women of Jerusalem
weeping and wailing for Him. I was impressed again with
the way in which He turned to them and said: 'Daughters
of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me. There is no need to
weep for Me. You weep for yourselves and for your
children, but not for Me!' What does that mean? That this
Cross, toward which He was going, on which He was going
so soon to be impaled, and all that was going to fall
upon Him there, was not the end. The women may have
thought so, but He knew that it was not. Even then tears
for Him were not justified: "... who for the joy
that was set before him endured the cross..."
(Hebrews 12:2). The way of the Cross was life, not death.
This was how He was going to secure that for which He had
come, and which God had intended for man all down the
ages, and from before the world was.
"I AM the way, the truth, and the life."
Dear friends, we cannot get outside of that! If we
comprehended what those three terms mean, that would be
all that we need. They compass everything.
The New Testament, then, introduces this eternal will and
purpose of God in a Person; but what is the rest of the
New Testament about after the Gospels? It is simply the
working out of these three things. All the rest of the
New Testament is gathered into the way that Christ is,
the truth that is in Jesus, and the life that is by His
death and resurrection.
Having said that, we can come to our particular message
for this time.
DIVINE LAWS OF REALIZING THE DIVINE PURPOSE
read some Scriptures to get to this:
"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy
mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night,
that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is
written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way
prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success"
(or, as the margin says, "deal wisely")
- (Joshua 1:8).
"And now, O Israel, hearken unto the statutes and
unto the judgement, which I teach you, for to do them;
that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which
the Lord, the God of your fathers, giveth you. Ye shall
not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall
ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of
the Lord your God which I command you"
"These words, which I command thee this day,
shall be upon thine heart: and thou shalt teach them
diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when
thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the
way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and
they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. And thou
shalt write them upon the door posts of thy house, and
upon thy gates" (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
"He answered and said, It is written, Man shall
not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth
out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).
The Divine laws of realizing the Divine purpose of
knowing, of doing the will of God, which is the ultimate
thing in Christianity. Here it is perfectly clear that it
is the law of the absolute government of the Word of God.
We have read from Joshua, and we have intimated already
that the Book of Joshua is the resumption, after a
nation's failure and perishing in the wilderness, of the
Divine will and purpose, and moving forward now under
that government. Right there at the beginning, the
foundation of this new movement and all that is involved
in it, all that it means against a repetition of the
failure and tragedy that has been, is the meticulous
observance of the Word of God. The Word and the will of
God go together, and there is no progress in this great
calling into which you and I are called in the mind, the
purpose and the will of God except by the Word of God.
There must be obedience to the Word, the cherishing of
the Word, the binding of the Word upon our lives in all
matters. I have said how meticulous the Lord was in that
Book of Deuteronomy because, on the one side, there was
the terrible tragedy which had taken place and, on the
other side, the tremendous prospect. There, in chapter
after chapter, He is saying: 'Remember what I said?
Remember what I said! Call to remembrance all that I have
said to you.' The law of prospect is the government of
God's Word. The people had been forty years on probation
in the wilderness, and the one thing that stood over that
forty years was a testing of the heart as to the Word of
God. Remember Deuteronomy 8:2: "And thou shalt
remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee
these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble
thee, to PROVE thee, to know what was in thine
heart, WHETHER THOU WOULDEST KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS, OR
NO." In other words: 'Whether thou wouldest obey
His Word, and what place His Word had in thy heart.'
The probation of life is always the testing of a
wilderness experience. The trials of the journey and of
the experiences are, in God's mind, to see what is in our
hearts, whether we really have a heart for the Lord and
whether, after all our professions and protestations, the
will of God is really THE thing which governs our
whole life. The Lord is trying us out on that -
"Whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or
no". The testing is by the Word of God, and perhaps
we know something of that daily?
So we come to Joshua, and a new phase begins on the other
side of Jordan with a reaffirmation that the Word of God
is to be kept always before the face, on their arms, on
their foreheads, on the thresholds of their homes. The
Word is always there to govern them. They were a called
people, called by God out of Egypt, and called by His
name, but the calling is not enough. We have all been
called, but, after the call, comes the testing; then,
when the testing has been proved, we are chosen.
RESULTS OF FAILURE TO OBEY GOD'S WORD
in the Word of God turns upon this one thing: the
government of God's Word. Where the Word of God was not
honoured there was disaster, and because of failure to do
what God had made known as to His will there was
calamity. Again and again in the Old Testament we find
disaster as the result of a failure to keep the Word of
God always before them. Even Moses, who had sacrificed
and suffered so much for those people, was at the last
forbidden by the Lord to ask any more that he might go
into the land. Why? Because the Lord had said something
and Moses had not meticulously observed what He had said.
'Well,' you say, 'that is terrible! He is a hard God.'
Ah! but you must remember that it was not just Moses -
Moses has attained and obtained now, for he was with
Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration - but it was the
people for ever afterwards who had to learn this lesson:
you cannot violate anything that the Lord has said
without forfeiting and losing something.
Then we remember David bringing the ark up to Jerusalem
and making a new cart on which to carry it. But there was
a disaster on the way. The whole thing, about which they
seemed to be having such a good time and feeling that
they were being prospered and blessed of the Lord, turned
into that threshing-floor calamity. Uzzah died before the
Lord, and David was angry with Him that day. He turned
the ark aside and went and sulked, nursing his grievance
with the Lord. But he got over that, and we do get over
these things! We have those bad times with the Lord, but
when we get over them He is able to show us the meaning
of what He has done. David went back to the Word of the
Lord and found the Lord's instructions about the carrying
of the ark. He had not said: 'Thou shalt make a new
cart'. That was not in the Word at all, indeed, it was
another heathen idea. Then David saw and said: 'Oh, it is
written that the Levites shall carry the ark.' The
tragedy of that day, with the all good intentions, was
because the Word of God was overlooked and missed, but
the Lord never overlooks His Word.
There may be many secret tragedies in our lives, many
arrests in our spiritual progress, not because our
motives were not good, but the best motives may just miss
the particular thought of God, and He does not substitute
a good motive for something that He has laid down as law.
This all sounds very terrible, but we must take it
further, and this is where our hearts are really going to
be touched. The answer to these failures was not just a
sort of legal, mechanical way of observing some statement
in the Bible. The issue was very much bigger than that!
If you will look at every such instance in the Old
Testament, the big and the small, you will see that it
was always a matter of the Lord's presence. Do you
remember Ai? What had the Lord said about the principles
of spiritual progress? You know what He had said! The
people came to Ai, and you know what Achan did. He
violated the Word of God, and the whole of Israel was
arrested in their progress, brought to a standstill and
there was a scene of tragedy. But what was the real
tragedy? The manifest presence of the Lord had departed!
Is not the manifest presence of the Lord everything? Oh,
we do not want anything greater than that! Surely there
is no heart here which is interested in anything in this
life and all this world apart from the presence of the
Lord! If only we know that the Lord is with us, what a
lot of difference that makes! There may be a lot of
victories, a lot of strength, yes, there may be
conflicts, as there were with Joshua afterwards, there
may be many problems and many difficulties in life, but
if only we are assured that the Lord is with us, that is
everything, is it not? I tell you that is my battleground
all the way along. The devil is so cruel, using the very
discipline of God meant to bring us into His greater
fullness, using those trials as accusations against God,
and making us feel that because of this situation and
circumstance, this trial, this difficulty, this thing
that is so hard, the Lord is not with us. Don't you
listen to that lie! You will be absolutely worsted, ruled
out of all the conflict and the possession if you take on
that lie of the devil.
The presence of the Lord is the battleground. What can we
do without His presence? How can we get on without it?
What would our meetings be but for His presence? If only
we are able to say after our prayer-meetings: 'The LORD
was with us. He was there and we knew His presence.' That
is life, and that is strength.
Now all that in the Bible, as you see, hung upon this
Word of God. He is with us according to His Word, on the
basis of His Word and He is only with us as His Word is
in our hearts. So the Apostle says: "Let the word of
God dwell in you richly in all wisdom" (Colossians
3:16), and that is the Presence of the Lord. He stood
back at Ai and in the incident in David's life because of
the defaulting over His Word. And it is always like that.
TRUSTEE OF THE WORD
Spirit! You see, He is present as a jealous Trustee of
the Word, will and purpose of God. I thank God for that!
You are probably thinking: 'This is rather oppressive,
rather heavy, exacting, demanding and rather hard!' Oh,
yes, that is true and right, BUT the Holy
Spirit...! For what has He come? Why is He here? Why is
He in us? He is, as I have said, the jealous custodian of
the Word of God. He is very watchful. He is referred to
as the "seven Spirits of God" (Revelation 3:1),
which means complete spiritual knowledge, discernment and
perception. If I may put it in this way, the Holy Spirit
is here in trust with the will of God, in trust with the
purpose of God, and, therefore, in trust with the Word of
God, for these things all go together. The known presence
of the Holy Spirit, and the working of the energy of the
Holy Spirit are all in this connection - to bring us, by
way of the Word of God, to the end to which we have been
called. The Word of God is the ground of the Holy
Spirit's activity. You see that illustrated here in the
Old Testament. The Spirit of God is in charge. He is the
Captain of the hosts of the Lord. In the New Testament
the Holy Spirit has come to dwell within in order to keep
us on the line of the Word of God, and if we are
sensitive to Him, without perhaps knowing the particular
Scripture that applies, we shall know that something is
not right. We are just out of adjustment with the Lord.
There is something that does not say: 'That is right and
good and proper.' There is a sort of pause in us. The
Holy Spirit knows why that is, and if we will seek the
Lord about it and turn to His Word, He will just put His
finger on something; and we say: 'Why, that has been
there all the time, but here my situation just
contradicts it.' So we are tested by the Word as to the
heart, and the Holy Spirit has come for that. It is the
ground for His working.
Let me say to young Christians, out of a long experience,
that, although you may not understand a great deal of the
Bible, and you may not seem to enjoy it, READ it!
Even if it is labour, read it, work at it, get down to
it. You know, you have a tape recorder inside you! We
have a lot of tapes in the office of messages spread over
many years. Sometimes one is asked for and we look it
out, and just occasionally I want to hear a bit of it.
Then I say: 'Did I say that? Oh, yes, it is coming back
to me now from somewhere far away. Yes, I did say it.'
Have you tried to remember something, someone's name,
some person or some particular thing, but it has gone?
'What WAS that person's name? When was it that THAT
happened? Where was it? Oh, I give it up!' Do you? If you
understand anything about psychology, you won't give it
up. When it happens with me my folk say: 'He has gone
away!' I cannot let go of that thing until I have
remembered it! I am not looking anywhere for it, but I
set my mind to recover it, and then the point comes where
I feel utterly defeated. But I have learnt something, and
I let go. Later on, the thing just comes floating into my
mind. Where has it come from? My tape recorder, speaking
back after perhaps many years. Have you had that
The Word of God is like that. I am so glad that in my
early Christian life I set myself to a systematic study
of the Bible, book by book. I did not understand it all,
indeed, there are many things today that I do not
understand, but in those days I could often have closed
the book because it did not seem to mean anything. But I
worked at it; I analysed the books without spiritual
understanding, but I worked - and am I not glad today! If
I have any spiritual ministry today it is the Holy Spirit
working upon what is there. The Word is there, and the
Spirit works upon it. In times of need it becomes more
than the Word - it becomes the life.
Young Christians, do not give up the Bible because it is
difficult. Work at it, and the time will come when you
will say: 'Thank God for that hard labour over the
Bible!' One of the greatest, if not the greatest, Bible
expositors of this last century said to me once:
'Sometimes it is such a weariness in my work with the
Bible that I almost wish there was no Bible there!' Well,
he laboured at it, but the fruit of his ministry is all
over the world.
The Spirit works upon the Word. Give Him His ground. It
is the ground of spiritual progress by the Holy Spirit.
There may be an unconscious control of the Word in the
sense that you may not know exactly what a Scripture is,
but you know there is something that has got hold of you.
That is the Spirit working. The thing is written inside
you by the Spirit. The new covenant is written upon the
That is the beginning; but what does this mean after all?
It may still seem objective to you, just things said, but
spiritual progress in the will of God unto the full
purpose of God in our calling means that demands will not
be made without a very meticulous observance of what is
in the Bible.
Why this word today? Oh, it is born out of a tremendous
amount of exercise over recent years! Why the weakness of
Christianity today? Why the weakness of so many
Christians? Why the slowness of their spiritual progress?
Why the failure of so many? I put my finger upon a large
number of things that are here in the Word of God, as
clearly to be seen as anything can be, and I look at
those Christians and find that in their behaviour, in
their appearance, in their conduct and way of going on,
in their relationships there is just as clear and
definite a contradiction of what is here in the Bible as
anything could be. The Bible has something to say about
anything that you can think of. If I mentioned some of
the things that the Bible speaks of, you would be
surprised: 'The Bible says something about THAT?'
Yes, it does! What is the meaning of the tragedy of so
many marriages? That is a practical point! Then you go
behind and ask: 'Why did the marriage take place at all?
On what ground? A fascination? An infatuation? An
emotion? An impulse? A desire to be married anyhow?' It
is a tragedy, because that marriage was not based upon a
real spiritual relatedness. The first thing was not given
its place, because there were other interests. The Word
says precisely: "Be not unequally yoked with
unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 6:14). Are you going to
make spiritual progress if you violate that? No! There
will certainly be tragedy sooner or later. I take that as
an example, but I could mention many other things that I
am seeing in Christianity today.
I am trying to be faithful with you young Christians,
because I am deeply concerned for you that you do not
miss God's best, God's fullest, and so I say that that
depends upon your having the Word of God in you, so that
the Holy Spirit can touch something and say: 'Now, what
about this?' I want to be serious on this matter, because
it is a pressing issue in Christianity today. The
Christianity that is being produced now is a terrible
caricature of Christ. Young Christians, having God's
fullest and best depends upon your being serious about
the Word of God.
There is the other side, of course, and what a blessed
thing it is to feel that there is no impediment, no
restraint with the Lord, that there is a clear way, and
that the presence of the Lord is very real! Heaven is
opened! I know of nothing more blessed in all life than
those times when there is no cloud between the Lord and
myself, and His presence is so real and so wonderful. I
wish it were always like that! We sing the hymn:
were but seasons, beautiful and rare;
Abide with me, and they shall ever be."
is the wrong way of putting it! It should be:
me abide with Thee, and they shall ever be."
bring a cloud, but there is nothing more precious in all
human history than this joy of the Lord, this peace of
God, this sense that the Lord is for you, not against
you. You have days, hours, weeks of spiritual ecstacy,
and so it is worth it to be obedient and let the Lord's
Word rule in your heart, as the Scripture says.
When the Lord Jesus was dealing with the devil in the
wilderness, He was dealing with an evil person, but He
was dealing with very much more than that - He was
dealing with the whole issue of life and death. The devil
was trying to get Him, coerce Him, tempt Him, constrain
Him, compel Him to take a way which was out of the will
of God and would mean premature death, a death which
would be death and not victory. The Lord Jesus was
dealing with this whole issue of life and death, so
underline and encircle the word: "It is WRITTEN,
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that
proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Put that in the
positive way, ruling out the negative clause: 'Man shall LIVE
by every word that cometh out of the mouth of God' - and
that is God's thought.
Suffer this personal word: I was very near to despair a
little while ago, especially in the realm of ministry. I
went to the Lord, and He turned me to a Scripture which
hit me like a sledgehammer: "Preach the word, be
instant in season (that is very easy!), out of season
(when everything says: 'This is not the time'), but
preach to reprove, rebuke, exhort" - and here we
If you have had too much reproof, too much rebuke, well,
I exhort you: Give the word its place. The Holy Spirit
will do the rest and you will go on the way with