He is the rock of our salvation, our strength, our comfort, the very focus of our faith. In sunshine and in shadow we look to Him, and He is there to assure and smile upon us.
"He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. . . .
" . . . He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:4–5).
When the great War in Heaven was fought, Lucifer, the son of the morning, came forth with a plan that was rejected. The Father of us all, with love for us, His children, offered a better plan under which we would have freedom to choose the course of our lives. His Firstborn Son, our Elder Brother, was the key to that plan. Man would have his agency, and with that agency would go accountability. Man would walk the ways of the world and sin and stumble. But the Son of God would take upon Himself flesh and offer Himself a sacrifice to atone for the sins of all men. Through unspeakable suffering He would become the great Redeemer, the Savior of all mankind.
With some small understanding of that incomparable gift, that marvelous gift of redemption, we bow in reverent love before Him.
Our faith, our knowledge is not based on ancient tradition, the creeds which came of a finite understanding and out of the almost infinite discussions of men trying to arrive at a definition of the risen Christ. Our faith, our knowledge comes of the witness of a prophet in this dispensation who saw before him the great God of the universe and His Beloved Son, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. They spoke to him. He spoke with Them. He testified openly, unequivocally, and unabashedly of that great vision. It was a vision of the Almighty and of the Redeemer of the world, glorious beyond our understanding but certain and unequivocating in the knowledge which it brought. It is out of that knowledge, rooted deep in the soil of modern revelation, that we, in the words "talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that [we and] our children may know to what source [we] may look for a remission of [our] sins" (2 Ne. 25:26).
We do it as individuals with a sure and certain knowledge. As I have said many times before, and as I now say again, I know that God our Eternal Father lives. He is the great God of the universe. He is the Father of our spirits with whom we may speak in prayer.
We know that Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son, the Redeemer of the world, who gave His life that we might have eternal life and who rules and reigns with His Father. We know that They are individual beings, separate and distinct one from another and yet alike in form and substance and purpose. We know that it is the work of the Almighty "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). We know that this Church is the work of God, presided over and directed by Jesus Christ, whose holy name it bears.World Redeemer
As we pass from the dawning light in what some have called the dispensation of the Father in the Old Testament into the full noonday, in the dispensation of the Son, recorded in the Gospels, we learn that the Old Testament was but an introduction to the New.
The very first verse of the New Testament calls our attention back to the Old: "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham." (Matthew 1:1)
This Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham in the Old Testament Great Commission: "All peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:3)
"The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say and to seeds,' meaning many people, but and to your seed,' meaning one person, who is Christ" (Galatians 3:16).
The four Gospels do not record a full biography of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. They do vividly portray a Personality, so that like Moses we are made to feel that we are on holy ground and must tread softly. This may also suggest that it is far more important that we come to know Him, than that we simply know about Him.
The Gospels, though incomplete as biography or life story, are perfect as a revelation of Jesus Christ and His mission as God's Anointed One. The one Jesus is King in Matthew, Servant in Mark, Man in Luke, and God in John. All four Gospels bear a united testimony.
Under divine inspiration, The Apostle Paul, the greatest holiness and missionary representative of the Master, beautifully describes the Messiah to the Hebrews in the beginning of that epistle:
"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven." (Hebrews 1:1-3)
Early in His ministry Christ preached the wonderful Sermon on the Mount
. Among the "Blesseds" is Jesus' declaration: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." He also gave a lesson on divine love with a striking exhortation at the close, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:8, 48) So, there's no doubt that holiness is a priority in the teaching and preaching ministry of Jesus. The Great Commission
The closing verses of the last chapter of Matthew has the New Testament Great Commission. This is also recorded in substance in the other three Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles.
Jesus gave His Great Commission in the aftermath of the Resurrection. He had already been to the cross where He lay down His life so that a lost world might be saved. Laid in a borrowed tomb, He came forth on the third day as He had promised, and hurried away to a great camp meeting on a mountain in Galilee, for which He had planned before going to the cross.
That meeting in Galilee was the greatest camp meeting ever held. The risen Lord was the special evangelist. The disciples were there, and probably the five hundred brethren mentioned in Corinthians as having seen Him at one time (as this is the only record of a public service by Jesus after His resurrection).
What was the theme of Jesus' message that day? What burden on His heart did it represent? Here's how Matthew records what Jesus was asking the people he had called to be holy to do:
"Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
In the first chapter of Luke, Zacharias the priest, being filled with the Holy Ghost, in a prophecy announced that God had promised, and made provision back in the beginning, that His people should be holy: "The oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days." (Luke 1:73-75)
And in the tenth verse of the second chapter, we have the angel's message, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people."
In Luke 10:2, we read about Jesus sending out workers with this instruction: "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
Luke 11 contains what is called The Lord's Prayer. It is really a prayer that Jesus taught His disciples, when, after hearing Him pray, they asked Him to teach them to pray. This is the prayer we teach to our children. It is not only a prayer; it is also a type of creed which is taught to believers in every land before they are baptized and received into church membership.
It begins "Our Father," recognizing all of God's children as a part of His family. Then there is a pause for worship, coming in reverence to the great God of the universe, who is also now our Father: "Hallowed be your name." The first petition as Matthew gives it, "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," clearly refers to world evangelism. Our Father is a King, this old world is His by right. He created it, and placed man here. "The God of the whole earth shall he be called." After this we may pray for our every need, not forgetting to give Him the glory.
In Luke 11 then follows a parable to emphasize importunate prayer. A man goes at midnight to a neighbor's house to obtain bread for one in need, knocking and calling until the bread is given. Others! Others!
Have we neglected to make every effort possible to reach them? Let us pray in holy desperation and in faith, as an old man in the British West Indies did. When he discovered a deadly coral snake close to his bare feet, he knew that its bite meant death in thirty minutes. He could not think of words to say so he cried out, "Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen." God interpreted the prayer and delivered him.
Jesus continues by assuring his listeners that God is a loving Father who will answer their prayers. If earthly parents love to give good gifts to their children, "How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him." He thus links the coming of the Kingdom in all the world with the gift of the Holy Spirit. We cannot be all the Lord wants us to be, or do our best for Him, without the baptism with the Holy Spirit. In His sanctifying power, He not only making our hearts pure, He also fills us with His holy Presence.
Almost the last ministry act of Jesus on earth -- which is recorded in the last chapter of Luke -- was to open the understanding of the disciples that they might comprehend the Scriptures:
"He said to them, This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.' Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.'" (Luke 24:44-49)
The Redeemer was again stressing a linkage of holiness and missions as God's program for this needy old world.
The Apostle John begins his Gospel with a clear declaration of the deity of Jesus Christ:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men." (John 1:1-4)
In this same chapter John the Baptist introduces Jesus to the multitudes down by the River Jordan. Officials from Jerusalem had been sent to John to ask if he were the promised Messiah. John emphatically denied that he was the Messiah, saying, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, Make straight the way for the Lord.'" (John 1:23) The next day John saw Jesus coming and announced:
"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! . . . Then John gave this testimony: I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God." (John 1:29, 32-34)
The verse we often call the "heart" of our Bible is found in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
There is also a 1 John 3:16 which reminds us of our part in this great world program, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."
Our lives are to be laid down in sacrificial service that the world may know that a Savior has been provided. A revival in Samaria
The fourth chapter of John's Gospel contains a great missionary lesson. Jesus, on His way to Jerusalem, was passing through Samaria, which was largely heathen at that time. During the lunch hour while the disciples were away to secure food, Jesus, wearied with the journey, sat on a well-curb to rest. Presently, a Samaritan woman came with her water pot to draw water.
After asking the woman to give him a drink of the cool, refreshing water, Jesus began to tell her of the "living water" that He could give her, and that there could be in her "a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)
At first, the woman did not understand, but a new desire had been awakened in her heart. That awakening was followed by conviction for the sins in her past life. Soon, she exclaimed, "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet." (John 4:19)
After explaining to her about spiritual worship, Jesus declared He was not simply a prophet, but the promised Messiah. She was ready to accept Him and, forgetting her water pot, she hurried back to the city, inviting people to come and see this wonderful man that she believed to be the Christ.
In the meantime, the disciples had returned. They were astonished that He had talked with a woman of Samaria, for the Jews looked upon the Samaritans as "dogs."
But the disciples were now to have an important foreign missionary lesson. The Master reproved them for despising the Samaritans by saying, "Do you not say, Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together." (John 4:35-36)
What a marvelous lesson! The harvest of golden grain in Samaria was yet four months away; but He was telling them of a precious harvest of immortal souls that was now ripe and ready to gather. He was sowing the seed, they might reap, and in eternity they might share in His rejoicing.
The account closes with the wonderful declaration, "Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony . . . And because of his words many more became believers." (John 4:39, 41) A holiness message
A beautiful lesson on holiness is found in John 7:37-39. Jesus was teaching in the temple where a large crowd had gathered to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, Many of the people had believed on Him. Some questioned, while others were angry and wanted to destroy Him. They had now come to the last day, "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.'"
This was a call extended to all, the remainder of the message being especially for believers, regarding the Holy Spirit:
"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not been been glorified.)"
In the previous reference, in the fourth chapter, Jesus taught that our conversion meant having in us a well of living water, while here he speaks of holiness meaning that rivers would flow out of us.
This can be strikingly illustrated by an irrigation system I had the privilege of inspecting while on the Arizona District helping in holiness and missionary conventions.
Our party had been driving since early morning over arid desert in a valley below sea level. In the late afternoon we arrived at what appeared to be an oasis in that vast desert. It was the home of a splendid Nazarene family where we were to be entertained for the night.
In remarking about the great change, our hostess invited us to visit their irrigation plant about a mile from the house. Bordering the highway was a great irrigation ditch that was almost like a river. The water was rushing on to supply other smaller ditches over the great ranch. As far as the eye could reach, there were fresh, green fields which had once been dry, barren desert. Arriving at the plant, we were taken first to a great well, which was pouring out an enormous stream of water. Our hostess told us the well had been expensive. They had gone down and down until they tapped a large vein of water. It was a real artesian well which never failed, summer or winter. It was the most wonderful well I had ever seen and as I thought about the well of "living water," my soul was blessed.
We were then taken to a shed where a large electric motor was sheltered; this was connected by a huge belt with the pumping system, causing the vast stream of water to flow down through that great river out over the desert lands, transforming the desert into fruitful fields. The supply was not only sufficient for their own need, but supplied their neighbors for miles around. Asking about the harvest, I was told that they raised not one or two, but five crops a year! We returned to the home refreshed in soul and body, having visualized anew the meaning of the well and rivers in the Gospel of John. All the way back to the house I was rejoicing in Jesus' promise of the Holy Spirit for His people, the rivers of "living water" that would flow out, and the abundant harvest which would follow.
The story of the Good Shepherd is in the tenth chapter of this extraordinary Gospel of John. The "Good Shepherd" willingly lays down His life for the sheep. He becomes "the gate" so that "whoever enters through me will be saved." In the sixteenth verse Jesus again calls their attention to the importance of missions: "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen [Jewish]. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."
What a blessed privilege is ours to help the Savior gather in the "other sheep!" Yet I fear that not only the Jews, but many of God's dear children down through the centuries neglected these "other sheep." It is only a little more than two hundred years ago that the modern missionary revival began, and the Church began to take a real heart interest in the salvation of the heathen.
The Moravians were the first to recognize the responsibility of helping the Master bring these into the fold. They were a band of holy people, and they planned that every one of their churches having one hundred members should not only support a pastor in the homeland, but also a missionary in a foreign country. They have more members today in foreign lands than in their own homeland, and the good work still goes on.
It was from the Moravians that John Wesley learned about holiness as a second work of grace, and thus sought and obtained the blessing. He became convinced that holiness was the great need of the Church if it was to bring in the waiting multitudes. In a sermon, Wesley said that he had rather God would use him to get ten men sanctified wholly than to get one hundred converted, After the service he was reproved by a good brother who said he had thought Wesley was an evangelist and interested in revivals. Wesley replied that he was, for he believed that the ten sanctified ones should each get one hundred converted. That would multiply his effort in evangelism ten times.
It is so easy to forget these "other sheep" that Jesus says He must bring; who pray to gods that cannot answer, and offer costly sacrifices to gods that cannot help in their need, or satisfy the hunger of their souls. Jesus says, "They will listen to my voice," but it must be through human messengers. Let us hasten to get more God-called, Spirit-filled, laborers out into the great harvest field.
When Salvation Army founder William Booth was on his death bed, he was visited by one of the managers of the telegraph system of London. The man asked Booth if he had a last message he would like to send to his Salvation Army officers around the world. He said, "If you have, whether it is long or short, we shall be glad to send it free of charge."
Looking up, the General smiled his thanks and said just one word: "Others." That message was wired around the world where Salvation Army soldiers were out seeking for the lost other sheep.
Oh, that God may lay a greater burden on all our hearts for these "others" so long neglected by those who have heard and who claim to know and love the blessed Redeemer. Closing messages to disciples
In John 14, 15, 16 and 17 we find the Master comforting the hearts of His disciples by telling them more about the coming of the Holy Spirit, emphasized as the Comforter, and revealed as a Divine Person.
In chapter 14, we read:
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." (John 14:16-17)
Witnessing is stressed in the following chapter: "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me; but you must also testify, for you have been with me from the beginning." (John 15:26-27)
In the next reference in the 15th chapter, He declares the threefold work of the Spirit toward the world; and the necessity of His going.
Jesus had finished His part of the mission for which He came, having made adequate provision for the salvation of a lost world. Now the Third Person, the executive of the Godhead, was to come and carry on the great missionary enterprise through faithful witnesses:
"But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment." (John 16:7-8)
How important that all of God's children should not only know Him, but have Him abiding within and working through them in carrying out God's plan for calling out a holy people from all nations. The high priestly prayer
We approach the John 17 with bated breath. We listen with reverence and awe to the heart breathings of our Lord in His High Priestly Prayer. He was pouring out His heart to the Father for the last time before going out into the Garden of Gethsemane and on to the cross to lay down His life that a lost and ruined race might have life eternal. He left this comforting thought: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent."
The great burden of Jesus' prayer was for His followers. Jesus Christ was God's love-gift to the world and believers are the Father's love-gift to Jesus. Seven times in John 17 Jesus speaks of believers as given to Him by the Father. He prayed for their safety from the world and from the Evil One. He declared, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." He told the Father that they had received His words and had believed that He was the promised Messiah sent from heaven and because of this the world had hated them. He said, "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: . . . and now come I to thee."
He then prayed for their sanctification. The grace they now had would not be sufficient to enable them to carry on after He had left them, He had tried to make them understand the trying ordeal that was just before them, and they had all promised to be true. Peter even asserted that he would go with Him even to death; but they failed to realize the depravity of their nature that would betray them in the hour of trial. Jesus knew and prayed, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
Then, as He visualized a lost world, He added, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." But this was to be but the beginning of world evangelism! There was as yet but a very small company, and, looking forward to the coming centuries and the multitudes that would need to be told the "Glad Tidings," He prayed for all believers. He prayed for us! "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their word." He prayed that a spirit of unity and fellowship might pervade all believers -- fellowship with their God and with one another -- the blessed Holy Spirit dwelling in all hearts. "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." The objective being, "that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
He prayed for a world revival! And not only that, but also for the sanctification of all believers! "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."
One more petition -- the culmination of all the other blessed requests -- and the High Priestly Prayer comes to an end. "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou loved me before the foundation of the world."
This prayer of intercession could not go unanswered. More than one-fourth of the world's present population professes some kid of allegiance to and claims to bow before the cross of Calvary. If all were living members of Christ, and had tarried for their Pentecost and had gone forth at His command, how different world conditions would be today! Nevertheless, the faithful are still pressing on, and God is working miracles.