The Way Into Heavenly Places: Part 2

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The wilderness is the path of a Christian in which he learns himself. It is the place of a soul who is really at rest before God. There may have been experiences before of slavery, etc., but they were the experiences of a soul in which God has acted, but which is not yet delivered. It is where a soul is who knows he is redeemed. If I only know the blood, I am still in Egypt; but if I have passed through the Red Sea, I know God as a deliverer. I am not in the flesh but in the Spirit (Rom. 8). The prodigal son had experiences before he returned home, but they were the experiences of one who had not yet met the father. There was a work in the man. He found he was perishing. He had repented and set out, but there still remained the question, What will he say to me when I meet him? Will he set me on his right hand, or left? He had his speech already made up, and had fixed the place he was to take in the house-that of a servant-but he had not yet met the father. He learns what his place was in the house by what the father was to him when he met him, and he says nothing about the place of a servant. He is brought in as a son. He did not, could not, say, "Make me as one of thy hired servants," for his father was on his neck. It was not what he was for God, but what God was for him. He put the best robe on him, not a robe. He met him in his sins, but did not bring him in, in his sins. God met him in rags, but he is brought in, in Christ.
If I have gotten through the Red Sea, God is a deliverer and not a judge, in virtue of the full blessed work of Christ. I am not in the flesh. It is not merely that my sins are forgiven, but I am in the second Man, in Christ, before God. The first practical effect is, I am brought into the wilderness. A person has a great deal to learn after he is redeemed. I am out of the flesh, and have my place in and with Christ; but the learning of the flesh in me is a humbling process. "And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee," etc. "Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years." (Deut. 8.) God was thinking about their very clothes and their feet, but He gave them all the discipline and correction needed to show them themselves. And when through their unbelief they refuse to enter the land of Canaan, being unwilling to go up and fight the Amorites, He in His grace turns around in unfailing love and patience and dwells with them all the forty years of their wilderness journeyings.
What characterizes the Christian is the presence of the Holy Ghost, God dwelling in him in virtue of redemption. He does not dwell with man in innocence; He never dwelt in Eden. The dwelling of God with man was always consequent on redemption, whether in the cloud with Israel, or in the Church by the Holy Ghost. He had walked with Adam in the garden, dined with Abraham, so to speak, but He never dwelt with them. But as soon as He gets a people redeemed, He dwells with them and talks of holiness. He adapts Himself to their circumstances. When they were in bondage in Egypt, He came to them as deliverer; when they were in the wilderness dwelling in tents, He pitched His tent among them, and led them through. When they arrived at Canaan, He met them, sword in hand, as their captain, to lead them in conflict; and when at length they were all settled down, He built a beautiful house and dwelt
in their midst. So with His people now. He dwells with us by the Holy Ghost: first in us as individuals ("Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost"); second, in the Church collectively ("In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit"). It is not merely that they are born of God, but they have the blood on them, and there the Holy Ghost dwells. "After that ye believed," etc. "This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive." "He which stablisheth us... is God." He quickens unbelievers and dwells in believers. The presence of the Holy Ghost is what forms the distinctive character of the Christian and of the Church. The leper was washed, sprinkled, and anointed-the blood placed upon his ear, his hand, and his foot; and then the oil upon the blood. It was most holy; nothing must pass into the ear or be done by the hand, that would defile; neither must they do anything that would defile the feet in walk. The anointing-that is, the presence of the Holy Spirit in us-is the seal of the value of the blood. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost." (Rom. 5:55And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:5).) The Holy Spirit is the earnest, not of the love of God (for we have this), but of the inheritance for which we wait.
In the wilderness God is humbling us, proving us, and making all work together for good. Circumcision is not practicable in the wilderness. Israel comes to Jordan and crosses it. Here we have a figure, not of Christ dying for me, but of my dying and rising with Him. It is not simply that Christ died for me, but I am crucified with Christ. I reckon myself dead and have received Christ as my life. I am dead, risen, and seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. I am gone out of the wilderness altogether. I was dead down there in sins, and Christ came down and died for sins; and now I am quickened, raised up, and seated in Christ. That is the new place altogether. This is the doctrine taught in Eph. 1 am no longer looked at as alive in the flesh at all. I have gotten into heavenly places. And the moment I have gotten there, all is mine-"All spiritual blessings in heavenly places." But then it is only as I set my foot on my blessing, that I make it practically my own. And then I find that there is another foot there-the enemy is in possession-so that I have need of the whole armor of God. The place we have to pass through is the world as a wilderness; but, as to my position, I am in the heavenly places, and I must walk accordingly. If I am living in the world as a man in the flesh, I meet my neighbors and I may find them kind and obliging, but as soon as I begin to talk of heavenly things, I find them opposed.
Well, I have got to show forth Christ in living relationships. If it is true that I am in Christ, it is true also that Christ is in me. "At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you." John 14:2020At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20). The standard is not a man running on toward heaven, but it is showing out the Christ that is in me. "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (2 Cor. 4:1010Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10))-that and nothing else. "Death worketh in us, but life in you." I hold that Paul is dead. It was Christ acting through Paul. If we fail, that is wilderness work. If Christ is in me, I must never let a bit of anything but Christ be seen. Now you have Christ in you, which is positive power and nothing else; now you see that that is seen and nothing else. Joshua says, Set your foot on it. It is yours. I have got into Canaan and I get conflict directly. I am sitting in heavenly places in Christ. It is all mine, and now I am seeking to get hold of the things that I have a right to. "As captain of the host of the LORD am I now come." We get testing in the wilderness, conflict in Canaan. When I am in Canaan, I have spiritual intelligence and activity in that which belongs to me. "Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ"-how much have we each realized of the spiritual blessings which are ours?
In the stones taken out of Jordan, we find that the believer takes with him the character of death. The ark went down. We died to sin. The world and Satan's power is all gone. We belonged to death once; now death belongs to us. Now I am bound to say, Reckon yourself dead. We are never told to die to sin, but we "are dead." The first thing is, we have passed through Jordan dry, and that is our title to reckon ourselves dead. Circumcision is the practical application of this. "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth," etc. (Col. 3). If I see a man impatient, I do not deny he is dead, but I say, You need a little of Gilgal. If I see a man looking at nonsense in the town, I say, I do not deny you are dead, but you need to be circumcised. That is the practical application of the death of Christ to our souls, actually realizing it. Most strikingly in Joshua we get Ai taken, then conquest after conquest; but we find Gilgal, the place of circumcision, was always the place to which the camp returned after their victories. No matter what success you have, you must go back to Gilgal. The book of Joshua is the history of successful energy; the book of Judges, of failure, with God coming in and removing it from time to time.
Gilgal, the place of self-judgment, is the place of practical divine power. We find even victories dangerous unless we return to the judgment of the flesh. After preaching the gospel, the most blessed work that can be, we must go back to Gilgal. Israel began well at Jericho; what were the high walls to faith? The higher the walls, the more the tumble when they come down. But instead of returning to Gilgal, they get self-confident and send up a few to take Ai. But there we have failure. They have to return to Gilgal and judge the flesh. In Judges, the angel of the Lord goes up from Gilgal to meet them at Bochim; that is, from the place of power to the place of tears. They had left the place of power for the place of sorrow. They sacrifice there, but it is in tears.
After the passage of the Jordan, the first thing we saw was the setting up of the twelve stones; second, circumcision; third, we find the Passover. They can now look back at the foundation of everything in redemption. They keep it now, not as guilty and protected by it-that they had been in Egypt-but as celebrating the truth that the death of the blessed Son of God is the foundation of all blessing. The Lord's supper is nothing less than celebrating that which is the foundation of God's giving of everything. The more we look at it, the more we find the cross holding a place that nothing else has, except Him who died on it. "As is the heavenly," etc. "As He is, so are we," etc. The cross is even a deeper thing than the glory. The glory has been obtained by it, but the cross is where the moral nature of God, His holiness and His love, have been glorified. Here we see the circumcised believer in Canaan feeding upon the lamb, the remembrance of the death of Christ. The fourth thing seen is that they feed on the "old corn of the land," and the manna ceases. The old corn is a type of the heavenly Christ. The manna suited the wilderness-Christ come down from heaven. In the midst of all the circumstances down here,
He meets us on the journey, and we feed on Him. It is the same Christ-only in another character- that we see in the old corn of the land. We have a humbled and glorified Christ for the food of our souls-not only His life down here, but what we find in 2 Cor. 3 "We all, with open (unveiled) face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory." It is the fruit of the land-a humbled Christ who is now in the Canaan to which we belong. They had not yet taken a city, but they sit down at the table which God has spread for them in the presence of their enemies. All is mine before a single victory. I sit down in the presence of my enemies. He has spread a table for me. God's delight is my delight. Before I draw my sword in conflict, I sit down and know that everything is mine.
Last, we have the man with the drawn sword come to take his place as captain of the Lord's host. In heavenly things it is all conflict. Mark the word here. It is a question of, "Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?" There is no middle place, but a complete split. If you are for the world, you are against Christ. The moment it becomes a question of Christ, it must be either for or against. The world has crucified Christ, and He has said, "He that is not with Me is against Me"; and "He that is not against us is on our part." I know that the meaning of these two statements has been questioned and thought difficult to reconcile, but it is very simple. If we are for Christ, we must be against the world; and if we are not against Him, the opposition of the world to Him is so strong that it will not have us. "Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light," and there can be no uniting of the two. You never see the world accept faithfulness to Christ. The human heart is enmity to Christ. Satan's great object is that Christians should suit their Christianity to the world. You will never get the world to take God as its portion. "As captain of the host of the LORD am I now come." Of course, it was the Lord Himself.
We have the same words here as at the burning bush to Moses, "Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy." In the spiritual conflict we have to carry on, holiness is as much a question as redemption; and when we come to have conflict, we must be as holy as we shall be when we are with Him. Thank God, redemption has done this. You will have the Lord with you. The One who carries on the warfare is the Holy One who has redeemed us, and the Lord's own strength is with us.
How far have we the testimony? Can we say, I am dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:33For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3))? Is your thought and purpose to be at Gilgal or at Bochim? Is it your thought to go on in the knowledge of perfect redemption? to have everything of the flesh judged? and to have the Lord's strength with you for successful conflict?
"Prove all things." By what standard? My own comprehension, or God's revealed Word? "Hold fast that which is good."