Christ Supreme in the Heart - by JT, Sr.
CHRIST SUPREME IN THE HEART
John 12 : 1-3
My thought is to show that in taking us up the Lord intends to be all to us; not only that He should be in us, but that He should dwell in us. It is one thing that a person should be in your house, but another thing that he should dwell there. The epistle to the Colossians speaks about Christ being in us, whereas Ephesians speaks about Christ dwelling in us; that is to say, His thought is to have all the place in the heart. And this not as a matter of conquest, but He would occupy it at our wish, at our pleasure, so that He is at perfect ease dwelling there. " That the Christ should dwell in your hearts by faith." The Christ, the anointed of God, the One relating to God's purposes, that He should dwell in your heart. That is the object for which He has taken us up.
Now, I selected this passage because it sets out what I have in my mind. It is a question with me very often, Is the Lord a sort of appendage of my establishment, or am I an appendage of His ? It is a question to be solved in each heart. It is not that He spurns being an appendage of your establishment, if I may speak in this way, for in His grace He will be anything if He can be of service to you. He will be a friend in the family, and, if you are not quite prepared for that, He will be content to be an acquaintance; and if you are not even prepared for that, He will come and knock at your door to get in: such is the grace of Christ.
When we think of Philadelphia, He was inside, His name was revered there. It is a true evidence of womanly affection when a husband's name is revered and cherished in his absence, and thus it is with Philadelphia; whereas, when we come to Laodicea, the Lord though outwardly owned is not inside. He is outside, and His locks are allowed to be wet with the dew of the night. But He is seeking to get in: " Behold, I stand at the door and knock." And in spite of all the self-sufficiency that marked that assembly, Christ was prepared to enter in and sup with any one that would open. He says, I will come to any one. He is presented as standing outside and knocking; it is the present attitude of Christ to what is around us, to Christendom in all its self-sufficiency. Those addressed in Laodicea had turned their back on Christ. " We are rich and increased with goods," they say; they are quite satisfied without Christ. But He stands at the door and knocks, and says, " If any one hear my voice and open the door, I will come in unto him and sup with him." That is the situation, and He adds no more, He asks no questions. But what you find is, there is progress. If Christ is admitted, He will make His presence felt; very soon, instead of His supping with you, you will be supping with Him. At Emmaus, the two disciples invited Him in, but presently He takes the place of head of the table, and they sup with Him. It was the place of pre-eminence. Moreover, He says here, I am prepared to sell to you; if you are not prepared to accept a gift, well, come and buy. I will meet you on any ground in order to help you. Such is His grace. If you are not prepared to receive at His hand, He will sell to you; that sets forth the present attitude of Christ.
His object, however, is to become preeminent. I would refer to Joshua. He had been successful as a servant of God, He had brought a people safely over Jordan, a great achievement; but now a man with a drawn sword appears outside the walls of Jericho ; Joshua 5. Although the people had been brought over Jordan, Jericho was still standing. Joshua meets the man with the drawn sword, and inquires : " Art thou for us, or for our adversaries ? " The reply is : " Nay, but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come." It is as if the Lord would say; Oh, no, Joshua, that is not it at all; you ought to know better than that. I have been helping you all through the wilderness; the ground is changed now, this is My territory. As Prince of Jehovah's host am I now come, It is not your host, Joshua! Not your meeting! You may be a very prominent brother there, but it is not your meeting, and the Lord will not help you on that line. He is Captain or Prince of the host. All the saints of the meeting belong to the Captain of the host, they do not belong to you, and it was for Joshua to take his place in the ranks. Great leader as he was, he had to learn that the Lord is supreme in Canaan, and He is supreme in the assembly. You may rule your own house, it is your responsibility to do so, but remember the Lord is Son over God's house. The question is not, Am I with you, but are you with Me ? That is how the Lord would search our hearts.
Now, referring to John 12, though Bethany was the spot with no equal in its time, the one place where the Lord found sympathy, yet He was only an appendage, so to speak, there; He was not supreme in that house. But He was bent upon being supreme; that was in His mind. He was accustomed to visit the family there, but it was what one might call a self-contained family. Many a Christian is like that. The Lord is a good friend, and sought in time of need, but He is not the Head. Here, He was a friend, an honoured friend, but the family was self-contained. Is it not so with many of us ? The family has all that is necessary for its maintenance as it is ; in cases of special need Christ is resorted to, otherwise it is self-contained. Just as in Psalm 107, the Lord is called upon to help in cases of special need; when they do not exist it is plain sailing. Now, the Lord is not content with that. In grace He bears with it, He will not give you up. He will even come occasionally of His own accord to see you, but He will never be content till He gets the supreme place in your heart. The family at Bethany was a remarkable family, but the members were self-contained; that was evident on the face of it. They were loved by Christ, each one was loved, and Martha is named first in this way. Mary is not even named in John 11:5. It is the household that is in view, the house belonged to Martha, and the Lord, we read, " loved Martha, and her sister and Lazarus." And He so loved them that He was bent on becoming the supreme object of interest to them. With this in view, He remains away two days, while Lazarus is sick and dies.
Now, before proceeding on that line, I would point out that the great end and result attained is stated before you have the course of treatment that brought about that result. It says, " It was that Mary which anointed the Lord . . . whose brother Lazarus was sick," chap. 11:2; that was the Mary. It was as if the Lord indicated that the great result He intended to reach was viewed as reached before the thing was narrated. The actual anointing did not take place until after Lazarus was raised, yet we are told before the event is recorded, that it was that Mary who anointed the Lord whose brother was sick; that was the Mary. As if the Lord said, The course of dealings was a perfect success. Is it so with you, brother ? The Lord has been dealing with you, what result has been reached by the dealing ? If discipline is ineffective, it hardens ; I say it with all kindness. The Lord deals with every one of us : if you are not a subject of His discipline, you are not a son, " then are ye bastards, and not sons." But because we are in relationship He deals with us, because He loves us, as the word says; " As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." Rebuke is more serious than chastening. All are not rebuked, John was not rebuked. Peter was, but John was chastened as well as Peter. Of chastening it is said," whereof all are partakers " : " God dealeth with you as with sons." How blessed this is, to be dealt with as a member of the family. As many as I love I rebuke and chasten, but all are partakers of the chastening. The state of things in Laodicea involved that rebuke was necessary. Chastening is in order that a result might be reached, and it becomes a serious question as to what result the Lord is reaching with each of us. In the case of the family at Bethany, the result as regards Mary is stated at the beginning. Like the Psalms, it has often been pointed out that the Spirit of God states in the first few verses what is in the mind of God to bring about in the course of dealings described in the psalm. The result is recorded for our encouragement. One is brought back to the great divine ideal, and it always stands at the head of the psalm. The ideal seen here is, " It was that Mary which anointed the Lord " ; that was the Mary. So it is evident that the course of dealings was a success.
To pursue the point as to Bethany, we find Lazarus taken ill, and the Lord tells us, " This sickness is not unto death, but that the Son of God should be glorified thereby." Wonderful result of the sickness! Sickness brings sorrow, brings anxiety, brings death; but just dwell for a moment on the Lord's comment on the sickness of this man. " It is not unto death." The discipline of the Lord can never be to death in regard of a son. " How much rather," Scripture says, shall we " be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live." Discipline is for life, not for death. Hezekiah was brought down to the gates of the grave, but he says, " by these things men live." What things ? The things that caused him to weep, to turn his face to the wall, the things he regarded as the avenue to death; those very things. " Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits ? " God deals with our spirits. He has His eye on our spirits. He wants to bring about a spirit after Christ. He wants you to live in your spirit. It is not a question of your body, but as subject to the Father of spirits, you live. The great effect of discipline is, that although we suffer in the flesh we live in our spirits, as it is said in Peter, " that they might . . . live according to God in the spirit." The chastening is for that. Presently the body will be quickened. So Hezekiah could say, " by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit." Do not omit a single item of divine discipline. You need it, it is an asset, and you should reckon it such. If you omit one item you are at a loss, " in all these things is the life of my spirit." So here the sickness of Lazarus was not unto death. He might be dead actually, but you must read Scripture in the Spirit. The sickness was to life.
Lazarus lived as never before. Think of a man four days in the tomb and made to live! Would you like to have spoken to Lazarus ? Many came to see him. At the gates of Nain the dead man was raised up and began to speak. Would you like to have heard him speak ? I should. So Lazarus was raised up and lived in a new way. Although he was brought back to natural conditions, yet he had an experience that very few had. Think of a man four days in the tomb and brought back to live on the earth. What an experience! You get such an experience in Jonah. He describes it. God does not repeat Himself; many were raised, but Jonah alone is selected by the Spirit to give us his experience, and it is well worth listening to.
" This sickness is not unto death," the Lord had said, " but that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." God is glorified in the course of His dealings, and the Son of God is glorified. With Martha and Mary, though they respected the Lord, Lazarus had a greater place in their hearts than Jesus. Although the word says, " Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus," what we find Martha saying, and Mary said it too, is, " Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." Do you not think the Lord felt that ? It is a very searching thing. His thought was that presently instead of " my brother " it should be Himself; instead of His being a friend in the family, a respected and even worshipped friend, for they called Him Lord, instead of all that, He was to be everything in that house. He intends to dwell in that heart of yours, so that instead of being an appendage to your establishment, you will be an appendage to His establishment. You may say, I have no establishment. I very much doubt it.
In Luke 6 the Lord pictures house builders. My understanding of that is that every one is building a house of some kind. Every one of us, as we grow up, becomes a centre of glory, if not actual, it is in our mind. It may be only a little circle in which you wish to shine, perhaps only the circle of the brethren. But the Lord wishes you to be associated with His circle, with His establishment, and anything else than that will come down like a house of cards when the storm arises. The house at Bethany was ever open to the Lord, and He loved each member of the family there. He went to the grave with the sisters, He felt for them in death. Bereavement begets sympathy in our friends, and many came to sympathise genuinely with these two women. And the Lord was not above that. He was capable of sympathy, but His feelings were far deeper, infinitely deeper, than those of the neighbours who came to weep. He groaned in His spirit at the tomb, but note what He said: " Did I not say to thee, that if thou shouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God ? " That is the point. If you believe, you will see the glory of God. It is a great thing to see a man raised, but much greater to see the glory of God. How many have seen it ? The psalmist says, " My heart is fixed." It is never fixed till you see the glory of God; when you see it your heart is fixed, it is transfixed. " We all . . . beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory." The glory so holds the heart and mind that all else is abandoned. You may say, ' These things are too deep.' But they are the elements of Christianity. Your heart is never fixed as a Christian till you see the glory. The moment you see that it is no longer, Art thou for us ? " but you want to belong to the system of glory.
If you think of Moses, his first ascent to the mount did not bring in glory, it brought in judgment: the second ascent brought in the glory. In the presence of that the tabernacle system is reared up. It is quite true that the representation of that was pitched outside the camp after he came down the first time, but the establishment of the system is after the second ascent, after the glory. All the glory of the world pales into insignificance before it. " We all... beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed " we are made suitable for it. Remember, if you are to be an appendage to the glory, you are not going to detract from it. The Lord will not have you there, if you are to be a dark part, an opaque body. The saints are to shine. " They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars," we read in Daniel. It is not " As the moon " ; the moon shines with reflected light, but the light in which the saints shine is not merely a reflected light, it is inside. " God, who commanded the light to shine . . . hath shined in our hearts." It is a shining inside. As it says in Luke, " If the eye be simple the whole body shall be full of light." Simplicity consists in looking at the best things. If the eye be simple, the whole body is luminous. Are you detracting from the shining ? Is your body dark ? Are you walking in other people's light ? Let it shine in your heart, and walk in that light yourself. " We all," the apostle says ; he would not leave one out, he embraced in his affections all the saints. " We all . . . beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image." All alike, like Christ and like one another. As Joseph's brethren said: We are twelve brethren, sons of one father. So now all are to be conformed to the image of Christ, and all are to shine in that blessed character in the future. We are changed. How much it is needed. It is not " change and decay " ; it is " from glory to glory," and it will never decay, it will never fade. In heaven it will not be " change and decay," nor in the assembly either. It is " changed from glory to glory." There is no limit to it. " Higher and higher yet," till you reach the standard of Christ, who is said to be the glory of God. So though the outward man perish, the inward is renewed day by day, not Sunday by Sunday. The Spirit of God is active on Monday as on Sunday, and the inner man is renewed; that is the opposite to decay. The outward man perishes, decay is there, but the inward is renewed.
Then he goes on : " While we look not at the things which are seen "; he has a simple eye. How many of us are looking at seen things ? Terrible things are around us. There were terrible things in Paul's day; there was an era of war and violence, but the apostle was not looking in that direction. Nor was he looking at the temple of Jerusalem, but at eternal things. " The things which are seen are temporal," he tells us. Even the sun is temporal. Astronomers speak of the sun, their figures tire your mind, but sun, moon and stars are all limited by time. Is the assembly limited by time ? It is bounded by eternity. There is no limit to the feast of Pentecost, which refers to the gift of the Spirit, it links the soul with what is eternal.
So in John 11, the Lord says to Martha: " Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God ? " And she saw it. In chapter 12, these two women and Lazarus are in the light of the glory. Do we come together in the light of the glory ? Every believer should see the glory. Do not speak of small numbers, speak of the glory! There were only three at Bethany; it was a small circle, but they were in the light of the glory. " Thou shouldest see the glory of God," the Lord had said, and the two sisters saw it, and Lazarus was made to realise it, and they were all subdued. What was the effect ? Christ was supreme.
Now, I want to show you the importance of the risen man. Glorious though Christ is in resurrection, and it is that in which His glory shines, yet His heart is set on the raised man. He comes to Bethany six days before the passover, our Lord's day really, as if beforehand He was setting aside the sabbath and honouring the first day of the week. It was the resurrection day, the whole scene was characterised by resurrection. He came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom He raised from the dead. The Lord had said the sickness was not unto death, yet of Lazarus it says here, " which had been dead." He had been dead, but was now raised. The whole scene is characterised by resurrection, and a risen man is before the mind of the Lord. I need not remind you that all of us are raised by faith. Lazarus was one of those, but all were risen in principle : there was no need to mention others. Lazarus was one of those who sat at table, and Martha served. And Mary, what did she do ? She did what the Spirit records in chapter 11, she anoints the Lord, and the house, the house in which Christ was honoured, where they made Him a supper, was filled with the odour of the ointment. Ponder that scene, and put yourself in it, beloved friends. Do not attach the Lord to your establishment, attach yourself to His ; that is an imperishable establishment, it is established in resurrection. The odour filled all the house. What a house that was, a house worthy of Christ. It was not heaven, it does not go beyond resurrection, but it was the gate of heaven. When Christ comes to Israel He will come out of heaven, and there shall be no ending of the heavenly. John the baptist was representative of Israel's best, and he retired in the presence of Christ as out of heaven.
I only add one word as to Lazarus. We might have conceived, after his wonderful experience, that he would have returned to Bethany as a more conspicuous person than before ; the flesh might have taken advantage of it. What does he do ? The Lord says, " Loose him and let him go." See what he will do. I want to show the effect of resurrection. What would we do, if it were not for the influence of the brethren ? Thank God for their eyes upon us! They are a safeguard to us, a mercy. The Lord says, Loose him and I will show you how he will honour Me. He does not say, Bring him into fellowship. They were not to do anything at all, except to loose him and let him go. At Nain, when the Lord raised the widow's son, He took very good care that He did not let him go, He gave him back to his mother. No doubt she needed him, and he needed her care. Very happy it is that many of us, young Christians especially, have a mother, that we have the care of the assembly. We may thank God for the mother's care, for the care of the saints. But the case of Lazarus is not so presented. The Lord had never met the young man of Nain, as far as we know. He did not even appear to know his name. But with Lazarus, the Lord loved him before he was raised, and after; and Lazarus loved Jesus. What was the result of his liberation ? What did he do ? He was one of them that sat at the table with Him. That is what he did. It shows how he justified the Lord, he was now an appendage of Christ's establishment, he was part of it.
I should like that the word presented may produce exercise, so that we may give up ourselves as a centre, and let Christ be our centre, that we may all take our place in these closing days as part of His establishment, and thus when He presents Himself, as He does at the close, there may be the response from the Spirit and the bride.