I being in the way
At this point a very important question confronts us. Are there undoubted proofs in our life that we have answered His call and that we are now travelling towards the heavenly Canaan “in the footsteps of the flock” and are “followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises?’ The proofs that might he given are, indeed, so numerous that we can only mention the more obvious. But these, on the other hand, are the authentic evidence of our spiritual life.
For one thing, as soon as we obey God’s call from the heart we begin to move further and further away from the world and its ways. Marriage involves a separation, and this is as true in the spiritual sphere as it is in the natural. Christ came down into our world that His Bride might follow Him to His Heavenly Home.
In Psalm Forty-five He calls her out of her father’s house and from among her people. She was to bid a willing and everlasting farewell to everything that had formerly claimed her heart. Both Christ and the Church came under this law of separation. But here we can only think of this separation as it is seen in the lives of God’s people.
In the portion of the Word from which our story is taken a remarkable incident is recorded. It is when the servant said to Abraham: “Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me into this land: must I needs bring thy son again into the land from whence thou camest?“
The answer given is not only very significant but most solemn and aweinspiring as to it’s warning and its emphasis: “Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.”
These words plainly show not only that God’s call is holy and heavenward, but that the Christian life necessarily involves us in a separation from the unfruitful works of darkness and from those who engage in them. It was so with Abraham himself God had called him out of Ur into another country which he was to inherit.
Out of that idolatrous land he was called to serve the living God. And to that land he never went back, although the opportunity to do so was always there. Nor would he suffer even the shadow of that land to fall on his son’s soul. This is one of the laws which govern Gods kingdom.
In a literal sense we continue to live in a world, although not of the world and certainly not like the world. We continue to associate with our fellow men, to love and to serve and to pray for those who are still out of Christ; but our personal lives stand out in utter contrast to all that the world stands for. “They are not of the world, even as l am not of the world.”
Christ’s Bride, called out of the world, refuses to conform to its pattern or to defile her garments by adapting herself to its ways. Christ cannot be “brought down” to the level of our sinful ways. If we imagine that He can, our disillusionment will one day be complete and our presumption will fill us with dread and dismay.
In these days we hear a great deal as to what a ‘Christian’ may do and still remain a “Christian.’’ “Surely,” it is often said, “one can be a Christian and . . .“ Then follows a nauseating enumeration of all the things “a Christian” may legitimately do.
May “a Christian” not dance, drink, gamble, and even play a ‘harmless’ game on the Lord’s Day? A clean break from such things is only for the narrow minded and the bigot! Surely we can get to Heaven though our feet tarry in the broad way and though we embrace our little idols?
But real Christians never speak or act in this way. Those who do such things are not the Lord’s people. They have never left their sinful environment and associations to follow Christ. Like water they never rise above their own level. They repudiate the fundamental law of true discipleship.
The Christian life must be lived in the higher dimension of a willing consecration of oneself to Christ. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” He sanctified Himself for our sake, and for His sake we dedicate our lives and persons to Him, “which is our reasonable service.”
We once knew two ladies who lived together in a Highland glen. They lived affectionately on the same hearth, but spiritually they were far apart. “We should walk with the times” was the pet, thoughtless phrase often on the lips of the younger woman.
But the other would remind her that all true believers according to His Word. If there is no separation from “the world” God is not our Father and Christ is not our heavenly Husband. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate . . . and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall he my Sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” The pilgrim to Heaven has therefore his back to the world.
Another and a very genuine proof of discipleship is this. Those who are being prepared by God for Heaven are also preparing themselves. Someone once expressed this by saying that the Church of Christ goes to Heaven on her knees. In other words, she is praying without ceasing that God might create within her a clean heart and renew and sanctify her life.
She is always at the mirror of His Word, and in discovering the stains which still disfigure and mar her life, she resorts in prayer to the precious fountain of the blood of atonement where she receives cleansing and where her sins are removed and forgiven.
The glorious prospect of appearing before God in Zion gives her these constant exercises of soul. “The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.” She knows that without holiness no man can see the Lord. No preparation is required for a lost eternity. To enter that place of despair all that is needed is that we stay as we are and where we are.
The enjoyment of God’s presence here is another sure evidence that we are in God’s way, ‘I being in the way, the Lord led me.” The One Who so unerringly guided the servant in the way was not a mere angel but God Himself. But the Word makes it clear that this guidance was intimately linked to a holy converse with God in prayer. And true prayer ever carries with it the seal of its own genuineness and the evidence of God’s companionship.
There are many prayers that are stillborn. Like the formalist in the temple the “speaking” is all on man’s side, and there is no answer from God. In this way many, who may be far off from God, presume that He is with them. But those whose lives are governed by His Word hear His voice and are blessed by His presence.
These also hear His voice speaking to them through the written Word and in the events of His providence. Enoch “walked with God.” And he went to Heaven in conscious enjoyment of God as his Companion.
In Genesis Chapter Twenty-five we are provided with one great evidence that Rebecca also lived this life of habitual communion with God. In her new home we find her on her knees in prayer and asking God a question with regard to her children. Her prayer, along with God’s immediate answer, shows that she had God’s secret and the knowledge of His covenant. She was truly united to Christ, for she had His presence with her in the house of her pilgrimage.
A worthy man of God was one day walking along the road in one of the Highland glens. In the way two of his companions met him and for reasons of their own passed him by without any sign of recognition. Afterwards as he rested in the house of a friend, he invoked a blessing on God’s temporal gifts.
It was a quotation from a Psalm.
O Lord, I am with thee:
Thou dost me hold by my right hand,
And still upholdest me.”
By these words he meant that although men might disown him God was consciously with him and he was with God. There is, indeed, a sense in which the traveller to heaven is there already and this is one of the sweet paradoxes of the Christian life. We are there not only in God’s promise and representatively in Christ, but also in our desires and enjoyments.
Paul was in the highest heaven with God while he was still running towards it. Thomas Goodwin remarks that the beginnings of heaven are found in these words, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” And that is how Jacob described his blissful consciousness of God’s presence at Bethel in the words, “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
A state of grace is therefore, potentially, a state of glory. Those in whose heart heaven is shall one day be in the heart of heaven. When we are born from above we have a place in God’s family, and this is not a future hope but a present privilege and enjoyment.
“Now are we the Sons of God.” Heaven is not therefore a remote abstraction or a cold ideal. “Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God.” It is here with us as we move onto enjoy it.
Mr. C. H. Spurgeon tells of a shepherd who was once questioned by a friend concerning his assurance of salvation. The simple minded but eminently godly man ended his remarks by saying, “Here Christ is with me, and in heaven I shall be with Him.” This saying is consistent with Christian experience and Christian hope in every age.
Still another proof of being in the way is an ever increasing humility in the sight of God. This is a grace which shows itself more and more, the nearer we get to God, and the more we think of His sovereign love in calling us out of darkness into His marvellous light.
It was at the end of her journey that Rebecca bowed her head and, in the presence of the man who had honoured her so greatly, covered her face with a veil.
In the life of the Apostle Paul we see a progressive deepening of his Christian humility as he moves toward heaven. When he thought of his calling within the highest circle of God’s chosen apostles he could not but bow his head and say, “I am not meet to be called an apostle.”
Then came a stage when he saw himself as “the least” among the great company of all believers. But it was when he was on the threshold of glory that he wrote the words, ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am the chief.”
It may not be too much to say that this is a holy attitude to God which shall continue to deepen throughout Eternity. There our eyes rest forever on Christ. There we cast our crowns at His feet and say “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” ‘The Lord be magnified.”
A man whom we know was once walking along a quiet country road near the Cromarty Firth in Ross-shire. It was a lovely day in the late summer. Nature had clothed the landscape in her finest robe. Hard by the wayside lay the fringe of a very large field of corn. As he stood to survey the extensive cornfield he saw that the corn which grew round the outer edge was so very small as to be almost unseen.
It could not compare in size or strength with that which grew out in the middle of the field. And yet the small blades which had barely struggled out of the soil belonged to the field. They would be part of the harvest which would be gathered in due time.
“If,” thought this man, “I belonged to Christ’s field though the last and the least of that blessed number that shall be gathered to Him at last, I should be happy, happy, happy. O! to be within the circle of His covenant love, and to be among those who shall see His face with joy though the last and the least among them.” This was how he felt.
When sin entered the world it said to man ‘Ye shall be as gods.” But when grace enters our heart we say: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Another, and perhaps the greatest, proof of our being in the way is that we love Him Who first loved us. Our love for Christ has a beginning but it shall have no end. He is the Lover of our soul. The hope of heaven is, therefore, the hope of being with Christ.
Without Him, even Heaven itself with all its glories would be to His Bride a place of sorrow and loneliness. In that blessed abode nothing would compensate for His absence. Those who would be satisfied with a Christless heaven shall never be in heaven.
Let me illustrate this truth. There was a young woman who once looked forward to a happy life with the man who had given her his promise to be hers, and who had so deeply commanded her affections.
But one day the shattering word reached her that all was over. He had broken his promise. He had left her forever. Her fond dream faded out in sorrow. Her bright sky became shrouded in a perpetual twilight. A curtain of gloom, which nothing could lift, descended on her spirit.
A lovely home, riches and entertainment failed to compensate for the void in her heart. Her crucified affections left her stricken all her days. And whatever favours were showered upon her, her heart remained empty and broken till death at length touched her eyes in a last long sleep.
And were Christ not in heaven, all its glories, treasures and blessings could not compensate for His absence. His Bride would still be weeping with the cry of pain on her lips: “Saw ye Him Whom my soul loveth?”
Of course this cannot happen; but these remarks must be made to warn those who imagine that they may enter heaven without a saving knowledge of the Redeemer and therefore without any love for Him.
As the eyes of Christ’s Bride are toward heaven, her heart at the same time is whispering, ”Whom have I in heaven, but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.’
We believe that as Rebecca travelled towards her future homeland the servant and his companions had much to tell her of the blessings and privileges that were in store for her them.
In other words, Christian fellowship on the way to heaven is a sweet thing, and is an evidence that we have passed from death to life. We are not only God’s companions; but the companions of all those who love Him. Bunyan’s pilgrims were always talking about the ‘Lord of the hill’ and of Mount Zion, their future home with God.
“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.”
Perhaps, however, the most impressive proof that we are in the way is that, by God’s grace, we endure and persevere to the end. We meet with much to divert our eyes and to retard our progress. We also meet with many trials and difficulties, some of which threaten to overcome us.
Many set out in this way but they fail to persevere. They make shipwreck of their faith on their first contact with adversity. Others perish on the soft sands of earthly prosperity.
But, “the righteous shall hold on his way,” ever praying for the grace to enable them to reach the journey’s end. Well does David express this in his prayer,
“Hold up my goings, Lord me, guide
In those thy paths divine,
So that my footsteps may not slide
Out of those ways of Thine.”
We do not know how it fared with Rebecca in her journey, but we do know that she arrived safely at last. And Christ’s Bride, leaning on her Beloved, keeps on in His way “until the day dawn, and the day star arise in her heart”