The Price Paid for Heavenly Living
Man is under gravest obligation to live a heavenly life because of the price paid in order that he might live it. When a mother makes a great sacrifice to save her daughter from the ways of sin, it lays a great responsibility upon her. The apostle tells us that we are “bought with a price: therefore,”—the word therefore means for this reason, or, since this is a fact, we are under certain obligations. “Therefore,” says he, “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) Since we are bought with a price—a great price, we are under obligation to live to the glory of God, for it was to this end that we were purchased. Man usually feels under greater obligation to take care of valuable property that belongs to another than he does if it belongs to himself. And the greater the price paid, the greater the sense of responsibility. If a man would but fully realize that he belongs exclusively to God, this would move him to greater carefulness in life. Also it will bring to him a feeling of security, knowing that God will care for His own. A colored brother was heard to pray one time, when in a strong temptation, “Now help, Massa, for Your property is in danger.” It is blessed to realize in the hour of temptation that we are the Lord’s and to realize how dear we are to Him. Surely we will feel secure in His keeping.
Mrs. Hannah Whitall Smith tells a story that well illustrates the responsibility of ownership. She says that while traveling in the south, she met a lady who told her that she had occasion one time to give her slave a piece of work to do which required him to stand outside the window on a plank, that was held steadily by someone sitting on the end on the inside.
“The man was a little afraid, but said, ‘Missus, if you will set on the end of the plank yourself, then I’ll do the work.’
“I replied, ‘Won’t it do if your wife will sit on the plank? Mandy will not let it fall.’
“ ‘No, Missus,’ he answered, ‘I won’t trust Mandy. She is only my wife, and she may forget and get up, but you are my Missus, and I belong to you, and of course, you will keep me safe.’ ”
God never sends us out on any duty without the promise of keeping us while doing that duty. God’s promise is the plank. This plank rests on His faithfulness. We need not fear to walk out upon it, knowing God is on the other end and will bear us up.
One Scripture text above others impresses me with the fact of our valuableness and dearness to God: “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all.” (John 10:29) Now from this text you have always, no doubt, thought that Jesus was speaking of the greatness of the Father. That is the thought given us by the common version. But other translations give us a different thought which is the true thought in the mind of Jesus. The marginal reading of the revised version is, “That which my Father hath given unto me is greater than all.” The 20th Century reads, “What my Father has entrusted to me is more than all else.” Rotherham says, “As for my Father, what He has given me is a greater thing than all.” Weymouth translates it, “What my Father has given to me is more precious than all beside.” These versions give us the thought of Christ. Those whom the Father had given Him were more precious, were dearer to Him than all else. In His prayer to the Father, He gives us an intimation of how dear those whom the Father had given Him were to Him. “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me.” (John 17:6) We can see here something of the joy of His soul as He speaks of those whom the Father had given Him. Dear reader, are you one of them? Have you been given by the Father to Jesus? Just as the father gives his daughter to be the bride of the bridegroom, has the Father given you to be the bride of Christ? Are you wedded to Him? Then do your whole duty by walking worthy of such a Lover. Again in this prayer, He said, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition,” (John 17:12) meaning Judas. Of course He weeps over the one that was lost. He has had to weep many times because of someone being lost from the fold. It may be that someone who reads these lines was once safe within the fold, but has strayed away. If so, can you behold the Savior weeping for you? “His great, loving heart beats in pity for thee.”* Return, oh, return to Him now.
I can see a little company in some inner circle, separated from the world, with Jesus in their midst. They are His portion. The Father hath given them unto Him and He hath kept them. They are more to Him than all else besides. I can now feel something of the love He has for them. While He was with them in the world, He kept them in the Father’s name, but He says, “Now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee.” (John 17:11) While He was with that little inner circle in the world, He kept them, but now He has gone, and there is still a little company all His own left in the world. How are they going to be kept? Hear Him—“Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me.” (John 17:11) He is at the right hand of the Father today, just now, praying for that little company of consecrated ones whom the Father hath given to Him and who are most precious unto Him.
He knows His own. He has placed a few marks upon them. In my boyhood days, I have seen my father marking his sheep that he might know them. Jesus knows His own by the marks they bear. Here are a few of His marks. “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14) If you are one of those separated ones, the world hates you. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:18-19) Is there a gulf fixed between you and the world? The great gulf that was fixed between the rich man in hell and Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom was not created after death, but existed while Lazarus lay at the rich man’s gate. If there is not a great gulf fixed between you and the world in this life, there will be none in the world to come. Doubtless there are many who walked apart from the world at one time who are now going arm in arm with the world. Being hated by the world is one of the certain marks of being of that inner circle of Christ’s beloved ones.
Then there is another mark. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” (John 6:37) These words may have a much deeper meaning than we may at first think. No one comes to Jesus that does not forsake all else besides. Here we learn that it is only those who have forsaken all and come to Jesus who are given to Jesus by the Father. Those who come to Jesus no longer look upon themselves or anything they may possess as being their own. The one chief cause of so many powerless lives is because of lack of supreme devotion and an entire consecration to God. We have heard people sing:
“Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.”*
and then walk in ways of their own. Do you not think that the feet of many would point differently than they do if they were wholly directed by the Lord? They would carry them to the bedside of the sick, to the prison cell, to the house of sorrow, to the place of prayer, instead of to the places where the flesh find indulgence. If feet were “swift and beautiful” for the Lord, no doubt there would be more empty arm chairs and vacant pleasant firesides on prayer-meeting evenings and more empty beds on early Sunday mornings.
“Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages for Thee.”
This is really true in the life of those who have come to Jesus and are all His own. In such a case, there are no whisperings, tale-bearings, backbitings, jestings, light, frivolous, shallow expressions.
“Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.”
This is a true and beautiful conception. The soul of man can become so consonant with heaven as to receive the impulses of God’s love. The migrating fowl receives an impulse of a genial southern clime. In obedience to the impulse, it spreads its wings and flies away. The soul of man receives an impulse of God’s love. In loving obedience to this impulse, man moves about in the accomplishment of God’s perfect will. We wonder if all who sing these words are really moved by heavenly impulses. To be thus moved is the secret of heavenly living. They whose souls have been so perfectly pitched to the key of God’s will that they can receive the most delicate impulses, and obey them, live the most heavenly life. This is a mark of being one of that little company that is so precious to Christ. They are unknown, rejected, despised by the world, but they have come to Jesus and by the power of re-creation have been brought into such an affinity with Him as to be able to taste of the delicious delicacies of heaven and enjoy all the blessedness of a spiritual union with Christ. What care they for earth’s sweets! They have meat to eat the world knows not of.
There is yet one other mark we will mention. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) He does not say, “My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me,” but He inserts the clause, “I know them.” This is the secret of their following Him. He does not say, “My sheep hear my voice, and they know me and follow me.” They follow Him when He calls because He knows them. There are many, He says, who call Him Lord and who may do some very great things, but He never knew them; they are not following Him (Matthew 7:22-23). “To know” means to be united with, as branch is with vine, to have fellowship with, to have life flowing into life; it is love reciprocating love; it is heart beating with heart. Those whom Jesus knows, obey His call, not of compulsion, not for the green pastures, not for any personal advantage, not for fear of hell, but because of an inward attracting force, a constraining power, the controlling influence of Christ’s life and love. Paul said, “the love of Christ constraineth [me].” (2 Corinthians 5:14) He felt the impulse of that love so strongly that it moved him to action. He obeyed that mighty impulse though it led him into great suffering in the flesh. This is true of God’s sheep. They do not follow for fleshly gratification, or personal advantage, the praise of men, or for filthy lucre, but they obey that impulse as readily when it leads through the shadow as when it leads through the sunshine.
The voice of Jesus acts upon the heart of a true Christian similar to the action of the sun’s rays upon vegetation in the springtime of the year. The rays of the sun call to the flowers and grasses, and they spring up at their call. God, in creation of the plant, placed something in its nature that caused it to move when receiving the impulses of the sun’s rays. This is a parable. It is a type of the relationship between the normal Christian’s soul and Christ. The Christian obeys the voice of Jesus out of a law of love. Love is the fulfilling of the law. There is a law between the plant and the sun. Something, we may call it instinct, causes it to obey that law. There is a law between the Christian soul and Christ. There is something in that soul that moves it to obey the law. It is love. Thus love is the fulfilling of the law. There is something in the plant that begins to stir and beat. It is an impulse given by the warm rays of the sun. In the Christian heart there is something beating. It is the impulse given by the love of Jesus. Someone may say that we are to obey Christ from choice, from the power of the will. This is true, but where is the will that will move toward Christ except it is given impulses by the love of Christ? Love is the stimulant of the will. We love Christ because He first loved us. The sinner must see and feel the impulses of God’s love before he will ever will to come unto Him. This is why no one can come to Christ except the Father draw him (John 6:44).
Just at this writing, a lady came into my study. She told me she had but recently read an illustrative story. It was the story of a pair of robins who willfully refused to obey the impulse of the Southland. “The journey was too long; there was danger of the fowler’s gun; we may find nothing to meet our needs on the way.” Thus they reasoned. They sought to invent a tiny stove which they could place in their nest to keep them warm; thus all the wearisomeness and dangers of the long journey to the south and back would be spared them. How fittingly this represents man. The way to the bosom of God—the Southland of the soul—is too strait and narrow. There are too many hardships to undergo, too much suffering to be borne. There is the practice of too much self-denial, there is too little of the smiles and applause of the world. We will invent ways and methods of our own. We will create an easier way to the sunlit lands of peace and heaven than that way by the cross of Jesus.
That little company that the Father, God, gave to Jesus is that little company that has come to Him by the way of the cross. It is the cross that fits man for the bosom of the Father, for the companionship of the Son. On the cross where Jesus died, we behold the manifestation of the love of God. We can receive the impulses of that love only by the way of the cross. It is the cross that brings us in tune with heaven. The Christian glories in the cross. It is by the cross he is separated from the world with all its attending wretchedness, fretfulness, anxieties, discontentments, and disappointments. It is by the cross he is brought into communication with heaven, with all its joys and blessedness. He feels the impulses of the great Southland, and someday the prison doors of the body will open, and he will fly away. Heaven has come to his soul now. Someday he will go to heaven. If you want to get Detroit, tune in on WXYZ. If you want to get heaven, tune in on the CROSS.
You can have your Christian instincts deepened at the cross. You do not need to seek a monastery, or make long pilgrimages to the Holy Land, or take a long course in college to get inborn within your soul intuitions of heaven. Make your pilgrimage to the cross of Christ. If you desire a greater knowledge of the glory world, to get a clearer vision of the face of Jesus, to hear more distinctively messages from heaven, to feel more perceptively the warm, soft, exhilarating breezes from the Southland, hold one hour’s converse with the Son of God at the cross. It is there that your life will become impregnated with the sweet, joyous fragrance of the heavenly graces, and your soul so transfigured by the beauty of holiness, that saintliness will beam out through every feature, and as you go out among men, attending to the duties of life, heavenliness will be stamped on every act. The price paid for your heavenly living was at the cross. It is only at the cross that the price—the life-blood of Jesus—can be appropriated by the soul, and man become the ownership of Christ and thereby enabled to glorify God in his body and spirit which are God’s.
I am thinking of heaven tonight,
Of a mansion prepared there for me,
Where Jesus, my Savior now dwells,
And where I, some glad day, shall be.
I’m thinking of Christ on the cross,
Of the blood that now makes me whole;
The death of the Crucified One
Was the wonderful price for my soul.
I’ll love Him all the days of my life,
His praise I will ever proclaim;
I will serve Him through calm and strife,
And live to honor His name.