Believers in our Lord Jesus Christ are not their own, but are bought with the precious blood of the Lamb, they are therefore bound in everlasting ties to glorify Him in their bodies and spirits, which are God’s. While here in these tabernacles of clay, so encompassed are we with infirmities that our conscious service to the Lord our God is very imperfect. I find, beloved ones of God, I am coming short very often, and I meet with rebukes from the Lord. This makes me ashamed, and sad in heart, but even when smarting under his reproofs something that tells me that in it all He loveth me still. This is wonderful, how He still loves one so vile, so wayward and unprofitable, and as I think over it my heart mourns, and I feel, O, that I could love Him, and serve Him forever.
It is written, “A seed shall serve him, and it shall be counted unto the Lord for a generation.” I would hope that he hath accounted us among the number of this seed, but this is very clearly to be seen, that it is not with the flesh, not in our carnal nature that we are the servants and worshipers of God: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is not of his” (Romans 8:7-9). When we consider how glorious and infinitely holy is the God of our salvation, and how in significant and impure we are, it looks as though there were impassable barriers forbidding all intercourse. If then we were left to ourselves, our lot would be hopeless and inconsolable, and eternal separation from the Lord must be our doom. But in the gospel of the grace of God what beams of glory, of mercy and surpassing love, shine forth. Life and immortality are brought to light, and therefore it is that the apostle Paul exclaims, “God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son” (Romans 1:9). When the Holy Spirit reveals to us the exceeding rich provisions of Christ’s gospel, it forbids us to despair, and as these provisions are ministered to us by his divine power, we are raised up out of the dust, we feel to be of good cheer, we are drawn very near to our God, and in our precious Jesus, our Mediator and High Priest, we worship the Lord in the beauties of holiness in the holy mount at the heavenly Jerusalem. I know not altogether how other creatures are exercised, but I feel it is an astonishing mercy that such a sinner as I should be so moved toward God, that there is maintained in my soul hungerings and thirstings after righteousness, yearnings after the holy One. Bear with me while I say there are seasons when I, a defiled worm of the dust, am found repeating over and over in my heart, “Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine holy One? I shall not die.” O, such contradictions I find in myself! But in spite of all this in me so contrary to the holiness of God, I do not feel condemned in cherishing the hope in my heart that the Lord is my God and I am his. “Whose I am and whom I serve” (Acts 27:23). But look at our service, is it not much of the time very languid? So chilled and pinched up am I sometimes by worldliness and unbelief that I am made to mourn unto the Lord, and in my impoverished estate I cry unto him, “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” How blessed to have one’s heart lifted up in the ways of the Lord (2 Chron. 17:6). All other paths are paths of crookedness, and misery and death are the end thereof, but so rich are the provisions for the poor and needy in the gospel that they find moments when their hearts are so lifted up that they sing in the ways, and their pastures are in all high places. It is wonderful for a sinner to be so enabled by the Lord to feed by faith upon God’s eternal, electing love, the immutability of his counsel, the predestination of the elect unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself. These glorious verities are indeed some of the chief things of the ancient mountains and the precious things of the lasting hills (Deut. 33:15). Our Savior sustains the most endearing characters unto his own, and it is as the Comforter testifies in our souls of these endearing relations that we are enabled by grace given us to serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. “Whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son.” Surely without the grace of god, so incapable are we of serving God that if our salvation in any degree was suspended upon our serving him, we must utterly perish. I realize that I should be a barren, dry tree, incapable of yielding any fruit unto the Almighty. The commandment of the Lord ages ago was, “Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me? (Exodus 8:1). The deliverance of the chosen of God by Christ their Redeemer from sin and the curse and unto God, is that they shall serve him, and his name shall be upon their foreheads (Rev. 22:3). The service which is rendered from the heart unto the Lord begins below. Now, while we are in the earth it is mixed with much imperfection; our vile bodies, the world, the flesh and the devil, are all arrayed against us, and would utterly frustrate our “serving the Lord”. But thought sin is so abounding, God’s grace unto us much more abounds, and in the operations of this invincible grace in our hearts we triumph over all infirmities; by faith we tread under our feet all opposition, and are blessed with seasons of spiritual service unto the Lord our God. It is very blessed to hold fast in our remembrance that the obedience of the saints is in, and results from the most endearing bonds that bind them to the Lord. It is as the sons of God that they serve him. They are not hired servants who receive so much wages for so much workzz, and who when they have done their work are no longer needed. The (mere) servant abideth not in the house forever, but the Son abideth ever. Those therefore who are predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto God, do with the only begotten Son of God abide in the house of the Lord. God will never disown them, never will he turn them adrift, but he will love and have them near him forever. It is very encouraging to contemplate the behavior of the Son of God in relation to the adopted children of God. He is not ashamed to call them brethren (Heb. 2:11). Consider the surpassing acts of his grace in behalf of the elect family of God. They were given unto him, and predestinated unto the adoption of children in him according to the good pleasure of God the Father. In his wondrous love therefore he was made flesh and dwelt among us; he bare our sins and carried our sorrows, and in sufferings and blood purged all our guilt away. In all things pertaining to God he is the merciful and faithful High Priest of all the household of God. He declares the name of our heavenly Father, and sings unto us to gladden our hearts, of the covenant ordered in all things and sure. O, it is the presence, the ministry, the wondrous merits and services of Jesus our Brother that inspires our obedience, that makes meet and acceptable unto God all the services of the whole family of God. The Son of God is faithful over his own house, whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope firm unto the end (Heb 3:6). In our service to God so associated with Jesus Christ there is no bondage; the obedience of the gospel is not a yoke which believers are not able to bear. Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. The house of God’s mercy is supplied with infinite bounty, and tongue can never tell the goodness and fatness of the house of the Lord, therefore the household of faith have no lack, but God is able to make all grace to abound toward them; so that they having all sufficiency in all things abound in every good work.
In Egypt, Israel could not serve the Lord (Exodus 8:25-26). Not until they were free could they know how to acceptably serve him. “Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not a hoof be left behind; for therefore must we take to serve the Lord our God; and we know not with what we must serve the Lord until we come thither (Exodus 9:26). The shedding of the blood of the Passover lamb preceded the exodus of the tribes of the Lord from Egypt, that they might serve him; so to become the servants of God we must be ransomed form the bondage of sin by the atoning blood of the Lamb. Thus the apostle Paul declares unto us, “When ye were the servants of sin ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Romans 6:20-22). “For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God”. If then, beloved brethren, through the grace given to us we are come to the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, there is begun that experience of intimacy and fellowship with the Son of God that shall never be destroyed, for he loveth at all times; our Beloved and Friend sticketh closer than a brother. It is he that gives fragrance to the worship of the true worshipers of the everlasting God. He is the altar on which the sacrifices of the elect come up before God with acceptance.
The Son of God gave to his disciples most precious instruction, and discovered himself in a very wonderful aspect to them. He was their Lord and Master; they acknowledged he was the Christ, the Son of the living God. This glorious One, the Word made flesh, thus speaks to his erring disciples: “Whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:27). What! did the Word of God, who is the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person (Heb. 1:1-3), make himself of no reputation, and take upon him the form of a servant? He was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:6-8). This is an amazing and glorious mystery. All this is according to the eternal purpose of God, and it all is revealed as subsisting in the relationship of Christ to his people. He is the Head of the church (Eph. 5:23), and as such in behalf of the members of his body he was the servant of the Father, and the servant of his dear people, “I am among you as one that serveth.” The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. His service and work before the Father was to magnify the law, and to redeem the church from its curse, and to accomplish this he was made a curse for us. He gave himself a sacrifice for our sins, that he might present us in faultless and immortal beauty unto himself. He hath died to redeem us; what could he do more? and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16). By love serve one another (Gal 5:13). Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous (1 Peter 3:8). “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). The above Scriptures present us a glimpse of the practical channels of the service of the saints, and the New Testament abounds in gracious instruction how to serve one another in every condition, and I am sure that the heart of every one born of God responds with a hearty amen to all the precepts of the gospel. It is not in vain that it is written, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people”. That wonderful 119th Psalm is today, and to the end of time will be, a living presentation of the devotion of heart of the servants of God. What a gracious commendation is that “She hath done what she could” (Mark 14:8), and “She hath been a succorer of many, and of myself also (Rom. 16:2). Happy are you if such a thing can be mentioned of you. When our willing but imperfect service to one another and to God is ended in this world, could we look over it we should feel and say unto the Lord, I have been an unprofitable servant, wash all my services in Jesus’ blood. Then in heaven it will be our endless delight in faultless service to serve our glorious and gracious God for evermore.
FREDERICK W. KEENE
North Berwick, Maine
SIGNS OF THE TIMES