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The Man with the Withered Hand
We are giving a study in the Book of Mark which will carry some splendid suggestions for the student. Every Sunday morning we see a large group of people hurrying toward Sunday School and church. I wonder how many of us ever stop to consider the objectives of the various people who move on their way churchward.
In our study, in Mark 3:2 , we read these words, "And they watched Him, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath Day; that they might accuse Him." It is not difficult to discover why these people entered the synagogue, but we do wonder why people today enter?
1. One group go to church with the mere outward show of Divine service. There is a verse in Ezekiel which says, "And they come unto Thee as the people cometh, and they sit before Thee as my people, and they hear Thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness."
This is a sad story, but it is still true. How many there are who go to church regularly, and yet there is no real faithfulness to God in their hearts. Outwardly they appear pious, but inwardly their hearts goeth after covetousness. They like the sermon and the singing. It is all to them as a lovely song, as one who has a pleasant voice. However, there is no real worship in their hearts. Formal Christianity means nothing to God; a worship of the lip, and an outward demonstration of piety is not acceptable to God.
2. A second group goes to church with the thought of honoring God, and yet they know nothing of real heart worship. This group is described in Matthew 15:8-9 "This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me." Such people worship God in vain. They are teaching the doctrines of men. They cannot please God. The Lord demands heart worship, and He Himself must be recognized as the Head of the Church, and given all authority and all power in the lives of His worshipers.
3. There is another group of worshipers who seek to go to church, but their lives are unclean. To such, God says: "When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand?" God goes on to say, "When ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood."
There is one thing that God demands of those who worship Him. They must have clean hands, they must cease to do evil, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fathers, plead for the widows. God pity those who have a churchianity, but know nothing of a clean life.
4. There is another group who say, "Lord, Lord, and yet they never do the things that their Lord demands of them. To such God says, "I never knew you." He who seeks to appear before Christ and calls Jesus "Lord," must serve Him faithfully. If He is Lord, they must be servants.
5. The fifth group is the group who go to church to find fault. These are described in this study. There were many Pharisees present, but they were not there for any good. They were there that they might discover something with which to accuse Christ. They were persecutors and haters of Christ.
No one could have convinced them that Jesus Christ was true, no matter how hard they tried. They were that kind who had sealed their hearts and minds against His Name.
6. Another group are those who go to church for what they can get out of it. They are the loaves and fishes. They follow with Christ when, it is advantageous to themselves. We fear that among professing Christians there are those who want to be in the church that will give them the best social standing. They want to go where they themselves will be advanced in their worldly ambitions. They are not after serving Christ. He is no more to them than an aid to their own advancement.
7. The seventh group are those who go with the spirit of self pride. They say, "We have increased in riches, and have need of nothing." They are the Laodiceans. To them God says ye "are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
8. Our last group are those who go to church to worship with pure hearts. These are they who have turned from their sins to serve the Living, and the True God, and to await His Son from Heaven. Let those who study the various groups of church goers, place themselves where they rightfully belong in the above eight groups.
I. THE WITHERED HAND (Mark 3:1 )
When we think of the man with the withered hand, as standing before Christ seeking His helping power, there are three things which come to us.
1. The fact of sin. Sin always impoverishes, weakens, and saps the strength. We have seen the grass withering away because of the hot sun; so it is, whenever sin sweeps down upon us, it tends to wither us, until it leaves us altogether without the power of action. Sin breaks down our resistance; it hinders our conquests. Did you ever fall down and collapse spiritually in your weakness? that is the effect of sin.
2. The picture of a fruitless life. A withered life, makes us think of the corn in the field, or the 'wheat, or the rye that never comes to harvest. It is the fruit tree whose fruit shrivels up, and never matures.
There are many young people, today, who are like the man with the withered hand. They are in that helpless state where nothing ripens for the harvest. There is work to do, yet there is no one who can be trusted by Christ to point the lost to the Saviour. Their tongues cleave to the roof of their mouth; their power is broken, and they wither away.
II. THE COMMAND, "STAND FORTH" (Mark 3:3 )
1. God's call to separation. When Jesus said to the man with the withered hand, "Stand forth," He seemed to be saying, "Get out of the crowd, come away from, your former environment." This is always the call of God. If we want to serve Him, we must go forth unto Him without the camp. We cannot serve God and mammon, for either we will love the one, and hate the other; or else we will hold to the one, and despise the other.
Did you ever see a young man, or a young woman trying to be a Christian and at the same time, he or she was living the life of a sinner. This is utterly impossible. The Lord calls us to separation, these are His words: "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, * * and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you."
2. God calls us to the negation of human aid. As long as the man, with the withered hand, stood in the crowd he would be tempted to trust in the crowd, to lean upon them, and to follow their suggestions. At Christ's call, he stepped forth, separating himself from them. He denied their power to help him. He had come to the place where he had no hope in man. Man had never been able to heal him, or even to help him. He had no power, himself, to better his condition; and they, likewise, had no power.
We have gone a long way toward victory when we are willing to utterly repudiate every human aid. So long as we think we can do it, or that some one else can do it, we will never find victory.
3. God's call to perfect trust. As Jesus said, "Stand forth," and the man stood forth, he found himself in the position of being thrown wholly upon the Lord. As he walked away from the world, and from man, he was prepared to follow with Jesus, God says, "Trust in the Lord * * and lean not unto thine own understanding." The sinner does not need any human trust.
III. THE LORD QUESTIONS HIS WOULD-BE ACCUSERS (Mark 3:4 )
1. Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath? As the Lord commanded the one with the withered hand to stand forth, Christ's would-be accusers immediately began to insinuate that He was about to break the Sabbath Day.
The Lord Jesus knowing this said, "Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days?" The church of today is keeping the first day of the week. We are not under bondage to the Seventh Day. Yet, we often face the question as to what should be done, or should not be done on the Lord's Day. Should we do this, or should we do that? The question Christ asked His accusers should help us.
There is another thing the Lord said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." That is, the Sabbath is for our good, and not for our harm. We think of Sunday as a day for rest, and that is a true conception. Is there, however, any rest to a man with a withered hand? If the day is the day of rest, should it not be used to give rest to anyone who is bound by a disease, or by sin?
When we hear our minister preach the Word of Life does he not seem to be saying, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest?"
Jesus is our Sabbath, because He is our rest. There is no better time than Sunday, for Christ to say, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." There is no better time for Christ to say, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink."
2. Is it lawful to give life on the Sabbath Day? Certainly, the Sabbath stands for a day of rest, on the one hand, and for life on the other hand. There is, in the thought of the Sabbath, everything that gives and invigorates life, and nothing that tends to kill and destroy.
When we think of the Jewish Sabbath we think of its significance. First of all, we think of God's rest in creation. At that time He brought the world out of its chaotic condition. He said, "Let there be light: and there was light." He created physical life, as well as vegetable. The whole picture, therefore, of the first day of rest was the picture of life out of death.
Second: When we think of the Sabbath, we are reminded of the rest which the Children of Israel had from the Egyptians. We are reminded of their deliverance from their cruel taskmasters, who ground out their very life.
Third: There is another typical meaning of the Seventh Day. It looked on to the rest, which we commonly call the Millennial Rest, a rest which remaineth for the children of God. This will be another life, out of death. The terrific woes and judgments of the great tribulation will succumb to this Kingdom of Rest.
In the above three suggestions of rest, there is an answer to Christ's questions concerning the Sabbath Day: "Is it lawful * * to save life, or to kill?"
IV. THE LORD'S GRIEF AT THE PEOPLE'S HARDNESS (Mark 3:5 )
1. Religious bigotry makes hearts impregnable to the Truth. These men who sought to accuse Christ in this Scripture had their consciences seared, as with a hot iron, Their hearts were hardened as steel. Their necks were stiffened against Christ.
Whenever you find people blinded by religious bigotry, you find them all together set against the Truth.
Let anyone appear in the midst who is ever so humble, and ever so faithful to God, they will immediately malign him, unless he runs with them.
They think that every one who does not fall in with their religious set-up, is altogether perverse. They imagine that he, who is not a member of their religious denomination, or clique, is altogether wrong.
They would more readily believe a lie from their own, than they would believe the truth from one of God's faithful servants.
2. The rejection of Truth hardens the heart. Whenever the Truth is kept down, refused, reviled, the heart is left more adamant than ever. If we would know the Truth, we must follow on to know it. The Word of God is a two-edged sword, it cuts unto life, or it cuts unto death.
3. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. We read that the Lord looked on them with anger. In the same moment we read that He was grieved in His heart. The anger which Christ manifested, was not anything akin to our anger. God is always angry with sin. Anger is an attribute of His nature. God does not get angry, but He is angry with the sinner every day. The accompanying phrase, That He was grieved in His heart, gives a wonderful insight to His anger. God's wrath must fall upon the wicked, but, even as it falls, it grieves Him. We have read these words, God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
V. THE UNION OF TWO ANTAGONISTIC SECTS (Mark 3:6 )
1. The Pharisees were the orthodox Jews. They stood for everything written in the Law, and in the Prophets. They considered themselves the fountainhead of all truth. To be sure, they continually added many of their own laws and ceremonies to God's Word.
2. The Herodians were heterodox. They denied both the resurrection, and the existence of angels. They were what we might call, in our day the modernistic wing of the church. Between the Pharisees and the Herodians there was lasting antagonism, with no possibility of organic union. Two could not walk together, without being agreed.
3. Against the Truth, the two enemies joined. The Pharisees sought the aid of the Herodians, in fighting against God. One of the strangest things today, is the fact that the modernistic wing of the church, joins hands with denominational orthodoxy, in order to fight the men who go all the way with Christ.
Denominationalism contends against every truth which is not under their wing. There is so striking a similarity between the conditions described in Mark 3:6 , and the conditions which we have in our present day among Churchmen, that we are amazed. Jesus Christ has been ruled out from the Headship of His own Church. Indeed He stands outside the door and knocks.
VI. SEEKING TO SLAY THE SAVIOUR (Mark 3:6 )
1. The scribes and Herodians joined together to cast off their only hope of national and spiritual life. They joined together to overthrow the Lord Jesus, the rightful heir to David's throne, and the King of the Jews. As Christ left them that day, He left their house desolate, and desolate it shall be until they shall say, "Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord."
At this very moment, the Jews, after two thousand years, are still wandering among the Gentiles. They are without God, without Christ, without hope, without any national home, and their only hope still lies in the Second Coming of Christ.
2. In rejecting Christ they sought to kill the Author of Life. They, therefore, rejected their only national and spiritual hope, when they sought to kill the One who was both the Resurrection and the Life.
The Pharisees believed in the resurrection, yet, apart from Christ they could never have realized the resurrection. The Pharisees believed in the life to come, yet, without Christ, life to come was impossible.
3. They sought to slay their best Friend. He who had come with deliverance, they were ready to deliver to the Cross. Rejecters are even refusing everything vital to life and light. It is from God that every good and perfect gift proceeds; and he who would destroy Christ, destroys the only hope of his own good. Oh, Thou Friend of all friends, teach me to be friendly to Thee.
VII. THE WITHDRAWAL (Mark 3:7-8 )
1. Christ will not force His grace upon His rejecters. When the Pharisees and the Herodians joined together to destroy Christ, He quietly withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea. This is not the only time when our Lord withdrew. In the 4th chapter of Luke, the Nazarenes would have cast Him off the hill upon which the city was built, but Jesus quietly passed through the midst of them, and went His way.
The withdrawal of Christ, was not the withdrawal of a coward unwilling to face His enemies. It was simply His rejection of His rejecters. He could have overwhelmed them by His power, but the conquest of Christianity is not the conquest of the sword, God could drive men into subjection to His rule, but this He utterly refused to do. The Lord stands as one pleading all day long. He holds out His hands calling upon men to come into His arms of love. He is willing and able and ready to save, but He never saves until men come to Him believing and ready to be saved.
2. Some believed and some believed not. In our study we have seen why the Pharisees and Herodians rejected Christ. Yet, there were multitudes who went with Him. It is always so. There are some willing to follow Christ, but others follow Him not.
Christ went into the pool of Bethsaida, and healed one who had been sick thirty-eight years. However, a multitude of impotent folk, who needed Him, never said one word to Him about being healed.
3. The curiosity group. We have read the statement concerning the great multitude, that they followed Him because they had heard what great things He had done. We wonder if they were merely curiosity followers. The Lord have mercy on those who follow Christ merely from excitement.
"An observation balloon over the lines of the Allies was suddenly attacked by a German airplane firing 'tracer bullets,' which, if they pierced the balloon, would set it on fire. Watching from beneath we saw two black shapes drop like stones out of the car. They were observers. For two or three awful moments it looked as if they would be dashed to pieces. Suddenly a white cloud opened above their heads, and their fall stopped. It was their parachute, a frail thing of fine silk, but they cast their weight on it, the air filled it, and it sustained them. They floated gently and safely to the ground. I said to one of the officers, 'Isn't it rather awful, wondering if your parachute will open and hold you up?' 'Not a bit,' he replied, 'it always works; you know it will.' So faith is trusting yourself to God as completely as the observer trusts himself to the parachute. The parachute might fail. God cannot."
The Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost
In order to get the full view of our Scripture before us, it is necessary for us to study some of the accompanying scenes which lead up to Christ's statement, "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness."
Scene 1: The man with the withered hand. In the last study we had the healing of this man. At that time it stood before us as one of the signs of the mighty power of the Living Christ The miracles of our Lord Christ shows forth His glory.
As the Lord Jesus moved among the people healing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons, Satan became more and more fearful of His power, so also did the scribes and Pharisees become alarmed. It was natural, therefore, that both Satan, and Satan-energized men would set themselves together against the Lord.
Scene 2: The call and mission of the twelve. Jesus Christ after His miracles of healing, and of the casting out of unclean spirits, went up into a mountain and called unto Him His followers, from whom He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sickness, and to cast out the demons.
When the enemy saw these men sent forth upon their mission of good, they were the more alarmed. The power of Christ was growing day by day. His Name was being heralded afar. The fame of His mighty deeds was upon every lip.
Scene 3: The enlarging crowds who followed Him. The multitudes which came together to see and to hear Jesus, were so great that they could not eat bread. Had the scribes and Pharisees kept their hands off, the crowds would have followed the Lord in ever-increasing groups. The scribes, however, realized that it was necessary for them to get busy and antagonize the mighty Christ. In the scribes, Satan found his allies. He could use them to work out his will, and to fulfill his strategies against the Son of God.
To us, the saddest thing about the persecutions which befell our Lord was this; the men who led the fight were always the outstanding religionists of the day. They stood in Moses' seat, they paraded themselves as the lovers of God, and as the preachers of His testimony. It has always been so, the persecutors against the saints are still found within the church.
So far as Satan is concerned, he had from the beginning sought to make it impossible for the promised "Seed of the woman" to be born. Now that Christ had come, and now that Satan's kingdom was being shaken to the foundation, the devil was quick to join in with the scribes, if possible, to overthrow the Lord of glory.
Let us sum up the causes for Christ's words relative to the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. (1) Christ's mighty power in healing. (2) The commissioning of the twelve. (3) Christ's ever growing popularity. This drove the scribes to almost any strategy, if that, by any means, they might stop the sweep of religious fervor.
(4) In Christ's exaltation to authority, they felt their own authority waning It was for these causes, that they, maddened by circumstances, designed to say that Christ was working under the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.
We who love the Blood must not cease to contend for the faith once delivered.
I. A BITTER THRUST (Mark 3:22 )
"And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth He out devils."
1. The assaults upon the Truth came from the men sent to herald the Truth. The scribes themselves, along with the Pharisees, made a great show to piety and to goodness. The Lord said of them, "They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."
The scribes and Pharisees did all their works to be seen of men. They boasted their religious superiority. They loved the uppermost rooms at the feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues. They loved the "greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi."
However, these scribes and Pharisees were hypocrites, shutting up the Kingdom of Heaven against men. They devoured widows' houses, and then covered their wickedness by the pretense of a long prayer.
They were deceivers of the people. They would carry out details of religious rites to the limit, but omit the weightier matters of Law, judgment, mercy and faith. They strained at gnats, while they swallowed camels. They "make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess."
Christ called them whited sepulchers, beautiful without, but full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness within. Such were the men who had made their thrusts against Christ.
2. The assaults against Christ were unfair and untrue. They said concerning the Master, "He hath Beelzebub." They also said that He worked under the power of the prince of devils. Nothing could have been more falsely stated.
The One who came down from glory, they acclaimed as having come from Satan. The One upon whom the Holy Spirit rested at His baptism, the One who was led of the Spirit, and filled with the Spirit, the Pharisees claimed was filled and energized by Beelzebub. The One who spake the "Words of the Father, did the will of the Father, and wrought the works of the Father, they insinuated was under the power of the devil.
The Pharisees sought to say that He who came down to undo the works of the devil, was in league with the devil.
We marvel at the depths of Satan. He tried to malign the Son of God, and God the Son, as His own vassal.
May God reveal unto those who deny the Virgin Birth, the sacrificial and substitutionary Death of Christ, the literal Resurrection of our Lord, and His glorious personal Return; may God reveal to them that they are walking in the footsteps of the Pharisees who were the dupes and slaves of Satan.
II. CHRIST'S REPLY (Mark 3:23-26 )
As soon as the scribes had ceased to speak, Christ called them unto Him, and spake unto them in parables, saying "How can Satan cast out Satan?" Jesus had been casting out demons, the scribes said He cast them out by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. The Lord at once showed them the folly of their philosophy, because they had made Satan to fight against himself.
His parables included two things;
1. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Where is the king which would sow the seeds of strife, or kindle any fire, that would destroy himself?
2. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Kingdoms are made up of houses. Would any house set its members in array, the one against the other, each member of the house, trying to subdue and to overthrow each other member of the house? Such a house could not stand.
We remember how the disciples, on one occasion, sought to stop a man from speaking for Christ, because he did not number himself among them. The Lord immediately bade them, "Nay." He said in effect, "He that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad." When men honor the Lord Jesus in their hearts, and call Him "Lord," we know that they are Christ's disciples.
To be sure Satan may put many into our camps who will say, "Lord, Lord," with their lips. We may find within our ranks many wolves, who are wearing sheep's clothing. They come, however, to destroy and not to build up. They come to darken, and not to illumine the minds of men.
Such men are spies, trying to get within the citadel in order to sow the seeds of discord and contention among saints.
We do not deny that there are many heretics who stand behind the pulpit. They use loud speaking words; they really are corrupters of the faith. Of these Jesus did not speak, when He said, "If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand." These men are in the house, but not of it. They may be clothed, outwardly, with the robes of saints, but they are within far from saints.
III. CHRIST'S SUPREME TASK (Mark 2:26-27 )
Our verses read, "And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house."
1. We have the picture of a strong man. This strong man is none other than Satan himself. The present day mimicking of Satan is perverse. Satan is the king of darkness, he is the head of a tremendous force, Heavenly and earthly. He has innumerable fallen angels and demons under his power. In addition to these, he has an untold number of demonized men, under his authority.
He is the strong man. Even the archangel, Michael, durst not bring against him a railing accusation. People laugh at Satan, they call him the old nick, the old scratch, and any other name with which to scare children. They amuse grownups by their folly.
The truth is, no one can dare to face Satan alone. He goes about seeking whom he may devour; and, unless we stand clothed in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ we will fall beneath his onslaughts.
2. The picture of the stronger man. There must be some one stronger than the strong man, if he hopes to spoil the strong man's goods. There must be some one strong enough to bind the strong man. In these words, the Lord Jesus Christ was setting forth the fact that He and Satan stood against each other in a death conflict.
It was a question as to whether Satan could overwhelm our Lord, or, whether He could overwhelm Satan. All along, during the earth life of our Lord, the conflict was on. The conflict, however, came to its climax upon the Cross where Jesus Christ, alone, and unassisted, met Satan and all of his combined forces. There, the Bible says, He met principalities and powers and vanquished them; triumphing over them in it.
Let us plead with people to gather under the shadow of the wings of the Almighty Christ for protection from Satan and his wiles.
IV. THE SIN OF SINS (Mark 3:28-29 )
We now come to the verses upon which we chose the naming of this study. Our verses read: "Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation."
1. We read that all sins, including blasphemies against the Father and the Son, may be forgiven. How great is God's grace; how deep is His love; how rich is His mercy. All sins may be forgiven unto men but one sin. Mark these words: There is no promise of forgiveness to demons, or to angels, but to man. How comforting are the words, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
Sometimes men have come to me and said, "I am too great a sinner, God could not love me." With what joy do I answer him, "That whosoever will, may come." "The Blood of Jesus Christ, His Son cleanseth us from all sin."
If anyone reads these words and thinks himself excluded, we would like to quote the oft-used expression of Charles H. Spurgeon, the noted London preacher; "None are excluded thence, but those who do themselves exclude, welcome the learned and polite, the ignorant and rude."
2. We read of the sin which may not be forgiven to men. The Lord said, "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness." How many have been troubled by these words. People try to read into them, many things that God never said, and never meant. The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, is strictly against the Holy Ghost. It is not against God the Father, or against God the Son. It is not a sin against our fellow men. All of these may be forgiven. This sin is expressly against the Holy Ghost; it is a specified, definite sin. It is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. It is not in grieving the Spirit; it is not in quenching the Spirit; it is not in resisting the Spirit; it is blaspheming the Spirit.
Jesus Christ wrought by the Holy Ghost. At His baptism, He was baptized by the Spirit. He was afterwards led by the Spirit, and filled by the Spirit. Therefore, we truly say, that Christ cast out demons, by the Spirit of God. Thus, when the scribes said, "By the prince of the devils casteth He out devils," they blasphemed against the Holy Ghost. They claimed the work of the Holy Ghost, was the work of the devil. They did not make a thoughtless statement to that effect; they made a dogmatic, malicious, statement, a statement backed with all the venom and wrath of Satan's engendered fury.
Let us faithfully give this warning to all. Never permit yourselves even casually to criticize the work of the Spirit of God. Let us even be cautious lest we decry what the Spirit does. When we come into the presence of God, let us bow the head, and reverence His Holy Name.
V. CHRIST REVEALS HIS INNER CIRCLE OF FRIENDS (Mark 3:34 )
1. Of those who stood around Him, He said, "Behold My mother and My. brethren." What meaneth such words of tender compassion? We, who know Him, and trust Him, are welcomed into His loving fellowship. How near, how dear, to the heart of God, are those who trust him? He calls us His jewels, His crown. He thinks of us as, "the joy that was set before Him." We are His beloved, His very own.
What then, is He to us? He is our Saviour, our Lord, our King; He is our Elder Brother, the Fairest among ten thousand.
2. The nearness of saints to each other. We have spoken of how near, and of how precious are the relations of saints to their Lord. We go on to suggest that as we are near to Him, we become near to each other. There is no fellowship on earth so sweet, and so pure as the fellowship among believers. There is a comradeship and a fellowship between saints, that is more precious than family ties. Even the love of husband and wife, of parent and children, are made sweeter, and richer, when they have added fellowship, as Christians.
VI. THE CAPSTONE OF THE CHRISTIAN'S LIFE (Mark 3:35 )
1. Sin means disobedience. God says, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and * * let him return unto the Lord." As long as we walk in our own way and will we are among the wicked. When grace changes us, we immediately deny ourselves, and everything in the realm of our own way, and we follow Him.
2. Salvation means obedience. If you would ask me to express, with one word, the result of being born again, I think I would use the word, "obedience." When we are saved, we take His yoke upon us; we follow Him in the way; we begin to live in Christ. Our desire, at once, is to exercise ourselves always to obey His every wish and command.
Jesus did not only say, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments," but, He also said, "He that loveth Me, keepeth My commandments." How then can we who are disobedient, walking in divers lusts, fulfilling the desires of our own flesh and mind, call ourselves His own? He has said, "My sheep hear My voice, * * and they follow Me."
3. Our highest ambition should be to know and to fulfill God's will. We should strive to stand perfect, and complete, in all the will of God. We should never seek our own, but Christ's.
One of the saddest phases of my ministry, is the necessity that is thrust upon me to call Christians to full consecration.
Why should God, the Holy Ghost, plead with us saying, "Present yourself to God"? We are not our own, for we have been bought with a price. Should we not, therefore, glorify God in both our bodies, and our spirits? Let us say unto God, "I am Thine, and all that I have is Thine."
Hear the pledge of Jesus Christ: "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." As long as God lives, and our souls live, so long does this pledge stand. It is true, we cannot always feel this presence. But we can always know that it is there, always think of it, so long as thought endures, always rest upon it forever and forever; and the reason why this promise is given is that we may hold fast to this truth. There may be a moment in the very depths of sorrow and anguish when the presence is hidden from us. But is it not because we are stunned, unconscious? It is like passing through a surgical operation. The time comes for the ordeal. The anaesthetic is ready. You stretch out your hand to your friend: "Don't leave me, don't forsake me." The last thing you feel is the clasp of the hand, the last thing you see is the face of that friend. Then a moment of darkness, a blank and the first thing you see is the face of love again. So the angel of God's face stands by us, bends above us, and we may know that he will be there even when all else fails. * * Amid the mists that shroud the great ocean beyond the verge of mortal life, there is one sweet, mighty voice that says: "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. In all thy afflictions I will be with thee, and the angel of My face shall save thee." Dr. Henry van Dyke.
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Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Mark 3". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29