Shall we remind ourselves of the basic word to these morning meditations as in the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 9: "God is faithful, through Whom ye were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord." Called into the fellowship of God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Yesterday we were occupied with the Person of the fellowship and the call: God's Son. And we were saying that we shall never get anywhere at all in the Christian life as the Lord's people, and we shall certainly never get through to the end and at the end, unless we have an adequate apprehension of the greatness of Christ. Over against all the littleness of what is presented as Christianity, there stands this immensity of that into which we are called when called into fellowship with God's Son - the Person, the great, eternal, matchless Person of Jesus Christ. And we could, of course, dwell all the week upon that, but it is foundational to everything.
I say again, that you will never get very far if we only have a small apprehension and understanding of the One into Whose fellowship we are called. And, seeing that many of you are Christians on the way, and well on the way, some far on the way, let me say this to you: that this is not just an initial need. We are only going to get through at the end, through all the trials, and the adversities, the difficulties, the sufferings, the afflictions, the perplexities, and problems of mature, spiritual life, we are only going to get through under the increasing pressure and the forces of evil, on the ground of an adequate apprehension of the Lord Jesus. It is He alone Who can measure up to our need and Who can take the measure and meet it.
Well, having said that, we have to pass on and come in the next place to the people of the fellowship. And I hope to be able to get as far as the purpose of the fellowship this morning; we shall see. These two go together really: the people and the purpose of the call and the fellowship of God's Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
The People and the Fellowship
"God is faithful, through Whom ye were called." "Ye were called into the fellowship of God's Son". Forgive me for being slowly emphatic, underlining every word. I told you yesterday that you'd have difficulty in keeping pace last night, but you'll have no difficulty in that way this morning! But we must move carefully together, not just hear words, but weigh them. Weigh them, because, you see, God always weighs things. The famous Dr. Parker, of the City Temple London, used to have a great midweek service in the Temple. People used to speak about the great number who attended, but Dr. Parker said, "I never measure my congregation: I weigh it." And that's it: God weighs us. God is weighing us all the time. God is not looking on the outside: He is weighing us on the inside. And so, we want to be "weighty" with every word this morning.
A little word, "ye were called" just seems to bring the whole matter to us, but what "whole matter" does it bring to us? Of course, these words were addressed to the Corinthians. Yes, it was brought to the Corinthians, this statement, that "ye, ye here in Corinth were called"; but it did not begin with the Corinthians. This was the long, long thought of God, reaching right back into the past eternity where the Divine Counsels were framing what Paul called "the eternal purpose" and concerning which he will say in another letter, "ye are called according to the eternal purpose".
And this call to the Corinthians was in the way, the line, of those counsels from eternity, the God and Father Who "worketh all things after the counsel of His Own will." This call reached right the way back; it did not begin at Corinth with these people, but they were called into those goings of God from eternity. It was as though God, moving from eternity down through the ages, came by way of Corinth and as He came by way of Corinth, He cried, "You here are called, called into the fellowship of My Son. Come along: join in with all those who have responded to the call through the ages, and go on with Us to Our end, Our predestined end concerning My Son". That call had been sounding then, right through the ages reaching right back before the world was. It goes on.
They have heard it of old, they've made their decision. Some have responded and gone on with God. Some have heard and made a response and turned aside, but God has gone on. God has gone on! Some have hesitated, weighing things up and deciding that it was too costly. They could not. But God has gone on. And there through history, the ages are strewn with people who heard the call, who God called, but have missed all that was involved in it.
God has slowly collected, shall I say, a people of the call through the ages; and He is still doing that, gathering a people into the fellowship of His Son. We might note, by way of collecting a few lessons from the mountain peaks of this call, there have been the valleys, in the valleys the ordinary people have been hearing and making their decisions. But there are these "mountain peaks" through history which in a special, particularly interesting, and instructive way, embody the meaning of this call. I mean, Abraham. We are not going to stay with these people, but we will just lift out some things that indicate what the call meant.
Stephen, in Acts 7, said, "The God of Glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Ur of the Chaldees, and said... 'Get thee out.'" "Get thee out" - the call to Abraham. We will see in a moment what that implied. But Abraham there in Ur of the Chaldees, with his one thousand or two thousand deities, met the One Deity or was met by the One Deity, the One God only, the God of Glory. Over all the deities of Chaldea, distinguishing a Voice, a Person, and isolating this whole matter of Divine relationship from all the other deities of worship to which Abraham was accustomed. He brings it all to one focus, to the God of Glory. The God of Glory, not just meaning, God Who is in glory, but the God Who has glory at the end as His object.
The God of Glory appears, and Abraham heard the Voice, the call of the God of Glory and somehow, in some mystic way, some strange, inexplicable way, Abraham came to understand that his call was related to God's Son. Now you want to study his life, of course, don't you, and find the place of the Lord Jesus in the life of Abraham. There's no doubt about it, you cannot mistake His place in the life of Abraham as you go on, "Take now thy son, thine only son... whom thou lovest...". Abraham has come right into the very heart of God, right into the very heart of Calvary. I don't know, I can't explain it all, but I know somehow, somehow Abraham came himself into the fellowship of God's Son and it's marked again and again in his life, right up to that mighty, inclusive crisis of offering his only begotten son.
He came into the heart of God and the Lord Jesus Himself put His finger upon this strange, mystic something, of a relationship with the Son of God right away back there in the life of Abraham when He said, "Your father Abraham saw My day, and he rejoiced to see it." Well, we don't know how, but Abraham heard the call into fellowship with God's Son and, at the cost of everything, said, "Yes, I'll go." And he went. His name stands as one of those who, because of that response, at great cost all the way along, in the beginning and all the way along, because he made that response, see what his name represents in history! Well, leave that for a minute, we come back and pass on from Abraham to Moses.
We heard last night, here is Moses in the silent desolation of the wilderness, with all that is going on inside of him as he is looking at his life and looking at himself, and his deep-seated consciousness of standing in relationship to this God, Jehovah. There for his forty years of aloneness with God. One day, one day, not the burning bush, but the "non-burning" bush, the bush that never did consume, a fire that did not go out. He noticed that while all other bushes flared up and flamed up and died, this one never did. The undying bush, holding this secret of the Life which is eternal, the Life which is never extinguished: the power of His resurrection. Moses said, "I will draw near, I will turn aside and see this great wonder." He drew near, out from the bush there came a Voice, "Take off thy shoes from off thy feet: the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."
And then the call and the commission, the challenge and the command. Moses heard the call. He tried to argue with God. He tried to enter into a controversy with God. Very good, very good, if your controversies with God and your arguments with God are of the same kind as that of Moses, it's very good. Really there is nothing wrong about that. Some controversies with God won't get you anywhere, but this got him along that way. It was a controversy on the basis of what God had been doing in his own life to bring him to the place of suitability to answer the call. You'll never be able really to enter into this fellowship, until, as our brother said last night, the bottom's been knocked out of you and you are able to say truly, "I've had a devastating experience, as with Moses, I cannot. I cannot." Ah, but you thought you could once! "No, I cannot." That's all right.
He heard the call, argued with God, but when it is on that ground, there is no use arguing with God. You are having to deal with God, and there's no use arguing. Here God is going to have the end in His Own Hand. He heard the call. Eventually, after arguing and after having to have a certain amount of accommodation made by the Lord to his situation, he went and obeyed. What a result! Moses. Moses... what God can do and will do when our response is from the brokenness which God Himself has brought about, the emptying. Leave that for a minute.
The next man who heard the call... where shall we go next? We might go on to David. David, a young man. A young man tending the sheep, his father's sheep - away from the city, away from the war, out there, living a life in secret with God. "The Lord who delivered me: the Lord who delivered me from the lion and the bear." He had a life with the Lord, his strength was drawn from the Lord; out there, this lad. And later he will say the Lord who called him from following the sheep, who called him from following the sheep. Out there in a simple way, the sovereign God called him, and you know the story. The vindication of David, I may have to speak about that again, the vindication of David was that his response to God was so complete, so utter. With everything you may say about his other, later life, there's a man whose heart has been captured by God. The call meant that for David.
We go on, leaving many, and come to the great prophet whom we all love so much, and perhaps can understand better than we can understand most of the others, the prophet Isaiah. You know the story, the account of chapter 6 of his prophecies, "The day that Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high, lifted up: His train filled the temple. At His presence, the foundations did shake." And he goes on, the overwhelming consciousness of his own uncleanness and unfitness that always comes when you have come into the true presence of God. Isaiah said, "Woe is me! Woe is me! I am undone, I am undone."
Here you have again the background of a great life of service and usefulness to the Lord. But then, he said, "I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Who will go for Us? Whom shall I send?" The call came to Isaiah in those circumstances, in the day when everything else had become a mere illusion; the day of disillusionment. Uzziah, Uzziah, that great king in Israel. Yes, Isaiah undoubtedly had fastened his eyes upon king Uzziah and he was his ideal, he was his hope and expectation for Israel. He was the man who answered to all Isaiah's desires, hopes, and expectations; and then, as you know, Uzziah broke down. He broke down, failed, and by his act in the Temple, was smitten by God with leprosy and was a leper until the day of his death. Poor Isaiah! All the glory of this world faded, and in that day, "I saw the Lord, high and lifted up." You can make your own applications and interpretations, we may say something, we shall, presently, about this.
Here is the course of God going on, on, on with His call into the fellowship of His Son, and Isaiah more than any other prophet has the place for the Son of God. We know that, don't we? Chapter 53 alone has that, but there is so much more. The Son of God is in view, and Isaiah has been called into the fellowship of God's Son, Jesus Christ. Leave that now, we'll return presently
On we go. Shall we take one big leap right over to the apostles? Those apostles by the lakeside in their daily vocation as fisherman and Jesus passes that way. God passes that way and just calls this one and that one, "Come, follow Me." And they left their nets and followed. Very simple the account, isn't it, a lot involved though. But, they heard the call, that's the point. As one of the hymns, probably known to you, simply puts it, "I heard the call, 'Come follow,' that was all. I arose and followed." But, how tremendous was the involvement of the response to the call.
The apostles, and outstandingly the apostle Paul, three times he gives the account of his call, what was contained in it and what it was unto on the day that he heard the call, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" "Who art Thou, Lord? What wilt Thou have me to do, Lord?" And all the rest, because as he says, "I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision."
I've just given these instances of men who heard the call of God as God was moving on through the ages and passing this one in this way, and as He passed, just called. And after that call, immense things issued. God is calling.
Now what I want to say, and I have got young people continually in mind about this as we go on, is that this call was undoubtedly a crisis in the life of every one of these people, as it is in the life of every one who hears it, along whose way the Lord comes and leaves this impression that something has happened. You may not hear a call from heaven, it may not come to you as it came to some of these; but somehow or other God has come your way, and He has left an impression that you have come to a crisis. There's a crisis bound up with this; if for you it's become, and you'll realise it one way or the other as you go on, it was a day of destiny. It was a day of destiny!
Destiny was bound up with this encounter with God, or God's encounter with you. It was the day, and we older Christians know this whether it was some particular day, twelve or twenty-four hours, but a time, a time point in our life, when everything became involved in this that I have called an encounter with God - we met the Lord - put it how you will. The Lord passed our way: the Lord came into the realm of our life. Something happened, and everything for us was involved. Paul himself described it as being apprehended by Christ Jesus, laid hold of, arrested - the day when everything was involved. And you know, the passing of the Lord Jesus our way is always like that - it is everything now. It is everything. For or not - everything is gained or lost when He comes our way.
You can go through His life here on this earth, during those three years, a little over, and see how He is passing along. He just is passing along, precipitating life's issues and destinies for those by whose way He came. Something is precipitated, and everything is in the balances now. Did He heed His enemies? Their destiny and doom is settled because He has just passed their way. Be they the needy ones crying out, "Lord, have mercy upon us." What a day that was when He passed that way.
When He happened to come - shall we say happened? No, not mere hap, in the Divine eternal counsels of sovereignty, He came to Jericho. And the little man, who couldn't see over the heads of the other people, climbed a tree to have a look at Him and got the shock and surprise of his life when Jesus looked up and said, "Little man, Zacchaeus, come down, I must abide at your house today." A day of destiny, wasn't it? Tremendous! That man didn't get up that morning thinking or imagining for a moment how he would go to bed that night. His destiny had been settled because Jesus passed through Jericho. Very simple. Very simple.
What means this eager, anxious throng,
Which pressed with did He haste along?
An eager voice thereupon replied,
"Jesus of Nazareth passeth by."
He is passing by. But, but! The eternal destiny registered on this one and that one and another, until He even comes to Pontius Pilate. Pontius Pilate knows one thing, even if he doesn't recognise all the issues, he knows one thing: that his destiny is in the balances of this Man, Jesus of Nazareth. He wriggles and writhes to get out of this predicament. He makes his decision and has gone down in history as wrong. Jesus passed his way. It was an eternal crisis. So it was with all these, and so it is, for He is still passing on. He is still coming on. He is still in that course from eternity with God and precipitating this issue of fellowship with Himself.
Now about the involvement of the call. If you go over again these lives that I have mentioned again, Abraham, Moses, and the others to the apostles and on since then to ourselves, the involvement. What is the involvement of any kind of contact with the Lord Jesus? This week in this place, with us; shall we believe that He has come this way? I cannot but believe that, the devil tried to prevent it. Oh, what a battle! Is it because Jesus of Nazareth is passing by? Come to Wabanna this week? God from eternity is moving and taking us in His stride. Is that it? Will you believe it? If so, there is an involvement in this contact with His Son. And if you look at these lives, you will see that the involvement worked out in this way: it was, first of all, a demand for changing position.
A Demand for Changing Position
What of Abram? "Get thee out." A change of position, a change of course. And in every other case, a change of position. With Isaiah it was a change from the earthly, the earthly kingdom, the earthly Uzziah, the earthly glory, the earthly expectation, to a heavenly one. "I saw the Lord, high and lifted up..." - a heavenly position now, for Isaiah. It's like that: a change of position.
I do want to say to you, dear friends, that if all this may be true in the initial encounter at the beginning of the Christian life, it is that, that is the great involvement at the beginning: a change of position. This fellowship with God's Son does not begin and end there. It goes on right through our lives. And will you believe me when I say to you, if you have been going on with the Lord for sixty or more years, you will still have encounters with the Lord which involve this: involve a change of position. We are up against that all the time: I am. After all this history, and how many, many times I have had to change position. Change position! I had thought my position was quite sound, right and true. I was convinced of it, and while it may have been in measure true, because in the sovereignty of God I was there. I came to discover that that was not all that fellowship with God's Son meant and it involved some very big changes of position.
You are wondering what I am talking about? I wonder how I can illustrate it? Well, you know, I was a minister, a fully accredited minister of two denominations at the same time, and two of the biggest denominations in the country; fully accredited. I wonder if I'd better say this? Sometimes, you know, it's necessary in order to get such a thing as you have in this country, what is it called - cheap railway travel for ministers - what do you call that? To have your credentials! They ask you, "Well, you say you're a minister. Are you a minister? Really? Have you got credentials?" Well, I've been in the habit when I've come to this country, all through these years since the first time in 1925, to just throw into my case my certificate of credentials that I was, at one time, on the accredited list of these two denominations and I've got my certificate in my bag today. I thought perhaps... like Paul using his Roman citizenship... Is that all wrong? You'll know why I hesitated to say this now. But don't argue. There it was and I knew that the Lord led me into that connection, the denominational ministerial position. I know He did and I know why now, I didn't then, I knew He did because it was simply marvellous how it all happened; wonderful!
As a little boy I used to be taken by my mother to another part of London, to some meetings. And walking to the place of the meetings we passed a very big imposing building which was a Congregational Church, as it was called. I looked at that, and I said to myself, "It must be a tremendous thing to be the minister of a place like that..." it was at the other extreme end of London from where I lived at that time. And that was the church I went to as the minister! And how it happened was just, well, like that! What I'm saying is that I know that that was of God and I know He did it that I might have an insight, a thorough insight into the whole of that system. So that I would understand it and know all that "ministerialism" is, and all that "churchianity" is, all that the whole system of organized Christianity is; because I got an insight that is unusual.
Strangely enough, I have preached in some of the most important churches in London, including that of Dr. Campbell Morgan's and many others like that. I got thorough insight into the whole thing! It's tremendously valuable to have it from the inside - to know it through and through, to get its measure; and then the Lord just as deliberately took me right out of the whole thing, out of the whole system. Whereas in those days I wore the canonicals and all the rest, I'm in, what am I in? A tropical jacket! Now, you see what I mean?
And I look back, and I say: if that was really not God's thought concerning His Church (and it isn't) if that is not what we have in the New Testament as the Body of Christ, the heavenly Body of Christ, why did the Lord lead me in? "Just to show you the difference. Don't you know? You know and you can talk now out of knowledge! You haven't got a theory about churches and ministries and ministers and all that sort of thing: you know from the inside how far that will take you and how far it will leave you." And it's so after many years of it. See what I mean? I am illustrating.
Don't take this up and begin to say, "Well, then, I must leave my denominational church." No, that's not the point. The point is what God does with you. And my point is that as we go on with God, we come more and more to know the meaning of fellowship with His Son, these demands to change position are repeated and continued, and we haven't got to the end yet. I don't know what the next one is for me, if there is another one, but I am having today, to date, to change position.
I don't know how many of you do receive the little magazine that we edit, it goes out over the world, but if any of you do have it, in the September number you'll see what I mean by changing position. Perhaps I'll come back to that presently. [Probably in reference to the article published in September 1969: The Essential Newness of the New Creation]
Over this whole matter the call goes on: "Come follow! Come follow. Come follow, where I go thou knowest not now, thou shalt know afterwards. The explanation and the vindication will come, but follow!" it was a crisis of position. It's the call with its involvement unto all that God has at the end. It may be that some of you are going to find this crisis this week, you've got to change position, change course. You come up against this, that you are as sure as anyone can be that you are right today, and then tomorrow you have a question about it.
Oh, how many men I have known in the course of my long life in that whole realm of things, and it's been a very wide realm, from far east to far west, through all the years in close touch with the whole of the thing, how many men, dear men, dear men who God has used, have I known to come to a crisis like this, which required a change of position, and they have said, "No" - gone away very sorrowful because they had great possessions.
I remember one such man with a very honoured name, you would know the name perhaps, greatly used of the Lord, occupying a position of influence in the Anglican Church. And he got hold of a book of mine: "The Centrality and Universality of The Cross." And he read it, and he said to me, "I want to talk to you". We went to lunch and got talking. He said, "I read your book. I know you are right. I know you're right, I know that it represents a tremendous challenge to my position. It involves everything for me." He paused, then he said, "I can't. No. I cannot. I have found a place that I'm in a good post to preach out of, and I think that I had better stay there." What happened? The name faded out, the position faded out - he just went on and lost. Oh, what a tremendous thing he might have had, not by coming and accepting this book or anything like that, you see, but because God had met him with a challenge!
I was in India on one occasion at Bangalore. We were having the Lord's table and right in the front there were two fine, young Indian men, fine specimens of men they were; upright, and looked clean and so forth. And the Lord's table, and the loaf was brought and the cup. And I paused and I said, "Do you know what this means? This means everything for the Lord. You are taking these symbols of the Lord and saying He only and altogether is your life, your days, your future, your everything." They looked very serious. And one nodded his head "Yes" and took. I went to the other, I presented, he looked and passed; good-bye. The Lord met, one said "yes:" the other said, "I can't - it's too costly." I don't know, I can't tell you the issues in their history, but there it was, like that.
And so, any encounter with the Lord does involve this: change of position. It did with Abraham. It did with Moses. It did with David. It did with Isaiah. It did with the apostles. It did with Paul. And it's like that right on to the end. Don't think you've reached the end or that your present position is final. That's the trouble, isn't it?
Oh, be careful on any matter whatsoever of thinking and saying that you have got the final answer, that your position is it, that there is no more to it. People are saying today in groups that they, they, they have got "the truth". And my word - what a history has followed such a position. No. There are some things about which we can be quite sure of the Lord, of our salvation, and so on, but our knowledge of the Lord's ways - no, we have got to go on, hearing the call, hearing the call: a change of position and a change of object.
Object... you could follow that into the life of the men mentioned, the object for which they were living, as illustrated by Isaiah. A change of object - what is your object? What is your object? What has you? Well, what a radical thing this was with the apostle Paul and the apostles, the earthly kingdom: "Wilt Thou at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?" The object? The earthly kingdom and their place in it, of course. "On the right hand and on the left, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." This kingdom concept, it proved to be utterly false, and afterward, they had to have a revolution as to the object for which they were living and working.
I did want so much to say something about the purpose of the fellowship, all this is on the way, would you suffer me a few minutes longer? Because this really is what I want to get at; and I think probably it will be all that is necessary this week, where I am concerned.
The Purpose of the Fellowship with the Son of God
What is it? Well, I am not now thinking of the purpose in the ages to come; that will come when we speak about the Prospect of the Call. But the present purpose, the present up to the time that the Lord Jesus returns. What is it? And if you forget everything else, get hold of this. Let's widen out and get the immense setting of it. You go back to the Book of Genesis, and God created the heaven and the earth and then the earth in all of its details. And then at a certain point in His progress and creation, He finished that and God rested from His labours. And God looked on all things and said, "It is very good. It is very good."
And God rested. What was that? God came into the garden, came into the garden and said, "It is very good." And delighted to come into the garden, and walked in the garden in the eventide. He had made this world, and the garden was the symbol of everything else in creation. He had made this world to be a place for Himself, where He could be at rest, satisfied, perfectly satisfied, at rest and have a place to which He could come like that. That is where you begin your Bible.
How do you end your Bible? Revelation 21: "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them... and be their God." The Bible is bounded by a place for God. God present, in satisfaction, in rest. Between Genesis and Revelation, what have you? Almost immediately the great forces of evil disputed God's right to a place here. And so you have all through the ages these two things: God ever and always seeking where He can be satisfied and be at rest, where He can have a place, where He can presence Himself without any controversy. On the other hand: the great cosmic conflict raging through the ages of which the Bible is just full, packed full, to dispute God's right to a place here, to challenge God's rights here as the place of the inheritance of His Son, a place for His feet to be gloried. The battle, the battle rages right through history: it rages today to get God out, to force Him out, to cause everything that is of God to quit this earth, that we, we shall take the earth, we shall possess, we shall have the place. That's the conflict of the ages: the presence of God.
Now, dear friends, that's the fellowship with God's Son, that is the call, that is the purpose of the call to fellowship. What? Oh, you've got to get rid of a lot of ideas over this! We hear so much about forming churches. The apostles never set out to form churches. What do you say to that, as an idea? See? Forming churches! They came into being, but they went out of being. God only looked upon those things, whether it be in Ephesus, or Laodicea, or Thyatira, or Philadelphia, or Smyrna, or Jerusalem, or anywhere else in this world, He only looked upon them as perhaps, perhaps providing some ground for His presence and being supremely characterised by this one thing - there the Lord is. There the Lord is, there the Lord can be found, there the Lord can be met, there you will meet the Lord and find the Lord. It is a place for Him: He is there.
These believers, what are they? What am I? What are you, as believers? Well, call yourself by any name you like, there is only one thing that justifies you being in fellowship with God's Son, only one thing. And only one thing that justifies the existence of what I call "churches", or anything at all like that: movements and groups of a Christian title, name. There is only one thing that justifies; that is: is the Lord there? Is the Lord there? If not, then like Shiloh of old, an empty shell: the Lord is gone. It goes on, the thing, it will go on, it will go on, but the Lord has forsaken it. And look now at the seven churches in Asia. Where are they? Was God jealous for the thing? Never! He was never jealous for the thing, you can call it a church or anything else, He was never jealous for that, He was jealous for His Son.
God's eye from eternity to eternity has had one object in view all through. It has been focused on one thing only, not on other things. He has used them in a related way, but when they ceased to fulfil that purpose, He has left them. He has forsaken them. They may have continued, time may have destroyed them, they may have ceased to exist, but God is out of them. God's focus from eternity to eternity is His Son! He is jealous for His Son, and He is always saying, "How much of My Son is there in your life? Not all you are doing, but how much of My Son is in the doing? Not having many gatherings, meeting places, filling the earth with what are called churches...". Oh, the Lord deliver us!
I want to know when I go into this place and that place: do I meet the Lord here and does the Lord meet me here? And do I go away or come away and say, "The Lord was in that place: I met the Lord," not, not this and that, not people, not men, not the assertiveness of autocratic leaders, and so on and so on, no. "I met the Lord."
The Bible, you see, circles around that one thing, always. The Tabernacle, the Lord was there, but where is the Tabernacle? The Temple? The Lord was there, but where is the Temple? He was here, He was there, men met Him; but when He saw that it no longer was a place where He could be at rest and satisfied, He passed on.
Our countries, our countries are strewn with shells that once had something of the Lord. All the disappointments! Way back in 1925 I had been greatly helped by the ministry of Dr. A. J. Gordon of Boston. And so, when I came to America for the first time and I was going to have a conference in Boston, was the first thing, I made it my business to go to Clarendon to see the place of my friend A. J. Gordon who had helped me so much. Oh, brothers, Gordon was gone the Lord was gone. He was gone. A shell! The place of where, you've read it: "How Christ Came to Church", have you read it? A ministry to the Lord's people all over the world from that place, but not now. The thing goes on, the thing.
And that's the story of so much; but, oh, God grant that it may not be my story and your story, "Once we met the Lord in that man, in that woman. Once when we met them, you did feel you were meeting something of the Lord, but now, but now..." May I say to you coming here that in my contacts, in my contact with you individually, I am always feeling, "What is there of the Lord here that I can touch, that we can live upon and have fellowship with?" Not where you come from, not all these thousand things about your life, but: the Lord. Are you making an impression of the Lord?
Now I say that is the purpose of our being here. It is the testimony of Jesus, that is, that He is the Divinely appointed Heir to this world and we are here where God has sovereignly put us, whether it is in a living fellowship or not, in a Christian country or a Mohammedan country. Where God has sovereignly put us, we are there to put both feet down and say, "I claim this place for Jesus Christ. He is Lord!" Hell will rage, hell will do anything to get you out immediately. Be careful how you get moved and what arguments are brought to bear on you. Oh, how many of our young people, who are in a living place with the Lord, get married and look for a nice home somewhere in the country. And go out into a wilderness spiritually and lose their spiritual life. What was the argument, see? A nice home? Oh, be careful.
We are here to claim this lentil patch for God and if we have got to fight until, as Shammah did, till our hand cleaves to the hilt of our sword and go on to the end of the day, may we come out at the end with the Philistines worsted. The enemy defeated. We stand. So Paul in this battle, this cosmic battle, says, "Stand... withstand and having done all, stand."
See, the purpose of the fellowship? To claim a foothold for the Rightful Owner! He said this gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the nations. Do you stop there? No, as a testimony. Do we hold all nations for Christ? You can, but you won't. As a testimony in those nations, you are there as a testimony that, "Here are the rights of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I am here for them." That's all. That can be enlarged upon as you see, but what are we here for, why are we Christians? To presence the Lord, to presence the Lord and this is the battle. It was the battle of the Lord Jesus Himself Who brought God in and declared God's rights. And the devil said, "Out You go, if I can have any say in the matter."
But we know that the end is with Him. We have got the vision. "The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea." It is going to be! We are heading up, fast heading up, to the great climax when the one issue will become universal: "Who is going to have this world?" And there is every, every facility and every means now available for deciding that in a very cataclysmic way. "A new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness."
Well, I don't know how to stop with such a thing, but I did want to get this to you: why are we on this earth? Things will be taken from us, men will turn against us, repudiate us, reject us. They will discredit us; they did it to the Lord. Why are we here? For self-vindication? Not at all. To hold the ground for the Lord, to be a patch for the Lord in this world. That is the purpose of being called into fellowship with Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Shall we pray: Lord, do cover all the faults. Take responsibility for the imperfections of thy servants, but do register in us what is the truth, "as the truth is in Jesus." Oh, convict us of this. We are interested in a lot of things, making, forming, all this, Lord; but do show us today, there is only one thing that matters to Thee, and that is the place that Thou dost have and how much of a place Thou dost have. Do bring this upon us in a new way. Hear our prayer, answer us, for Thine Own Name and satisfaction's sake. Amen.