By S.D. Gordon
"With You Always.".
Have you ever seen Christ? No, I don't mean have you been to some uplifting convention, and been tremendously caught by some talented, earnest speaker, and been swayed by the atmosphere of the hour and place, and felt that all was not just as it should be with you; and then you prayed more, and made some new resolves, or re-made some old ones, and left off some things, and put on some things; I don't mean that, but this--have you ever seen Christ?
No, of course, you don't see Him with these outer eyes. Well, then just what do I mean practically? This--has there come to you a real sense of Himself? of His presence? of the tremendous plea His presence makes? and, possibly, you don't know just how to answer. You say, "I'm not just sure," or "How can I know?" Well, you'll never say it that way, nor ask that question again after the experience has come.
May I tell you a little bit about it? Yet, mark you, only "a little bit." You can never tell another one what it means to see Him. When once the sight has come, every word you utter about it, or Him, seems so lame and weak that you despair of ever being able to let out at your lips what has gotten into you. But let me try, even if lamely, in the eager yearning that it may help you know if, thus far, you have missed seeing Him, and maybe--so much better--help you to see Him. For until you have--well, nothing, absolutely nothing, is worth while.
When you see Him there comes such a sense of His purity that, instantly, you are down on your face in utter despair, because of your own self--your impurity; your lack of purity; the sharp contrast between Him and you. You feel that young Isaiah's outcry in the temple that morning is wholly inadequate. "Unclean lips," is it? Why, the whole thing, from innermost recesses clear through and out, is unclean. Then it dawns upon you that this is really what Isaiah is feeling and trying to express in his "woe" and "undone."
And that vivid sense of contrast between Him and you never grows less, but more acute and deeper. Even when you come to know Him better, and the sweet peace comes with its untellable balm to your spirit, yet you are always conscious of the contrast, and you know that you are not pure; only He is; and all you can do is to keep under the cleansing stream of His blood, very low down.
"Never higher than His piercËd feet,
Never farther than His bleeding side."
With that comes such a sense of Himself, of His--what word can tell it?--His glory,--which means simply His character, what He is in Himself--that again words can never tell out the sense of your own littleness; no, that is not the word, your own nothingness. And now you recall, with an inner shrinking, how well you have thought of yourself, how much you have talked about yourself and your view of things, perhaps in the language of a properly phrased humility. Now you are dumb. His presence dumbs you. You begin to wonder at the strange self-confidence and self-complacence that have been so common even in your holiest moments and experiences. It seems, in this Presence, as though you could never open your lips again--except to speak of Him.
Then your eyes are drawn more intently to His person,--His face, His wounds. The scars where the thorns tore His great, patient face; the grief-whitened hair, draped above those deep, tender, unspeakable eyes; that strangely rough place in the palm so lovingly outstretched; the spear-scar, the nail-marks in those feet coming over to you,--these grip you. Their meaning begins to come. There's cleansing; yes, blessed fact! there's cleansing from this horrid impurity whose stain you are so conscious of. Yet, what it cost Him! What my impurity forced upon Him! Yes, cleansed; blessed Jesus! What a relief to be cleansed! Yet I must stay under the stream; only so can the sense of relief be continual. And I must stay down on my face at His feet. It is the only place for such as I discover myself to be. Yet what grace to let me stay at His feet!
Have you seen Christ? This is what begins to come when you have--His purity, your contrasted lack; His glorious self, your own nothingness in yourself; His suffering--the price of your cleansing. This is only a beginning, yet a beginning that comes to be the continuous thing.
After a little, as you are sitting still in His presence, and have become a bit quieter after that flush of first emotions at seeing Him, you begin to be caught all anew with how lovable He is. This takes great hold of you. I overheard a once-drunken, now thoroughly changed man, up in Scotland, as he was fairly pouring out his heart in prayer in his sweet, broad Scotch,--"Once Thou didst have no form or comeliness to me, but now"--and it seemed as if all the pent-up feelings within rushed at once to flood-tide--"now Thou art the chiefest among ten thousand, and the One altogether lovely." And the high-water mark of the flood was touched on "chiefest" and "altogether."
That first look made you think mostly of your-self--an inner loathing. Now you think of Him. He is so lovable, so true and tender, and patient and pure; again your language gives out, and you feel better content just to look without trying to use words. They're such poor things when it comes to telling about Him. He is so much more than anything that can be said about Him. His will is so wise and thoughtful and far-reaching and loving. Strange how stupid you have been in insisting so strenuously and blindly on having your own way. His plan, His thought about everything concerning you, is so superb. And He asks me to be His follower. What joy! What if the way be a bit rough; it's following Him; that's enough. He calls me to be His personal friend. I can hardly take it in,--His friend? Yes, that's His own word. Well, let any thorns tear because of the narrowing of the road; I'm His friend, man, do you hear? His friend,--do you get hold of that word? What can any thorn thing do against that!
"We" may go hand in hand now,--His is pierced; I feel the scar where our hands touch. But we're together at last, the thing He has been working for. I can feel His presence. I can hear the low music of His voice within. Thorns don't count here. Oh, yes, I feel them; they haven't lost their power to slash and sting,--but--with Him so close alongside!--Wondrous Christ, here I am at Thy feet, Thy glad slave forever. I'm wholly Thine. It's my own choice. I'll never go any other way by Thy grace. This is the second bit that comes, the glad surrender of life to His mastery. Do you know about this? You will, when you've seen Christ.
Then you come to know, without being able to tell just how, that He is not only with you, but within you. At first His presence may have seemed as something outside yourself. You were looking away at some One who was looking at you. And His look at you broke your heart, and made your will, once so strangely strong in itself, now as strangely pliable to His as only a strong will can be. But now He is living within you. You may not be clear just how the change came. But you do know that there's a something which you come to know is a some One, who is within. His presence is peace past understanding, but not past appreciation. There's a longing for His Word, a desire to talk with Him even when you don't want to ask for something, a deep heart-cry for purity, a burning within to please Him. These all seem to come from Him, and at the same time to be satisfied by Himself, even while they remain and increase.
And yet more, while this Presence within seems so quietly real and exquisitely peace-bringing, there is still the outer presence, the One whose presence it was at the first that brought all this change. Two presences, one above, enthroned there; one within, enthroned there; yet they seem the same, as though one personality with two presences had come into your consciousness. There's the Lord Jesus above at the Father's right hand; here's the Holy Spirit within at my right hand, yet in practical effect they are as one, while one's thought is always directed to the Lord Jesus both within and above.
The Presence within makes you think wholly of the Presence above, who yet seems also to be within. You are getting a taste of the practical meaning of the Trinity now, three that in effect are as one. But you are too much taken up with the gladness of it to think about the metaphysics of it. He--whether within, or above, or both--is so much more than words. The experience is so much more than any explanation. You are not concerned about the explanation so long as you can have the sweet experience.
The Final Goal.
This is the third bit that comes when you've seen Christ, the gracious indwelling of the Lord Jesus' other self, the Holy Spirit. But if you have seen Him, you are probably not counting steps nor analyzing processes, but just singing a bit of joyous praise to Him.
Then there's the outer turn; He does that. He draws you to Himself, and yet at the same time sends you away--no, not from Him--for Him, out to the others He hungers after, even as after you. Up, in, out,--so He draws and directs, up to Himself, in by contrast to one's self with a holding hard to Him while looking within, then a sending out to the others. He kindles a fire, He is a fire, drawing, burning, cleansing, warming, then driving you forth, and doing all at the same time. Wondrous fine, this fire of love--of His heart--of Himself. The common word for this is "service." The word doesn't matter much. Service is a good word. But the thing that comes seems so much more than this word seems to contain.
That hand that was pierced, which has been to you so tender and warm, and in its clasp so expressive of this wondrous friendship--that hand now leads you where you had not thought of going. And you go,--aghast almost at first at the radical change in your carefully worked out plans, losing your breath for a moment as you wonder what "they" will think (though "they" never will understand, unless--ah, yes, unless they see Him). That hand reaches in where your life touches others, in the family, the business circle, the social circle, and moulds you over anew in the old relationships, not taking you away from them (though there may be some partings), but making you a new presence in the midst of them.
That hand reaches into your pocket, and your safety-deposit box, in among the title papers and securities, and shakes off the dust and rust, and sends them out on an errand after the others. That fire--Himself--draws all into the smelting-pot. Its alchemy transmutes possessions into lives, redeemed, sweetened, Jesus-touched, Christ-renewed lives, made like Himself. And the sweet music of their new lives comes up into His gladdened ears, and a few of the strains come to cheer you. One may have at first a strange feeling of bareness, for things that we've always clung to as essential have gone out from us to others. But with the outgoing of things has come an incoming of Himself, in greater abundance than we dreamed possible. He, within, completely overbalances what He has sent out from us into use. He--He is everything.
The usual word for all this is "service," a blessed word. Yet service seems to suggest your doing something for Him among others. This is quite different. It is His doing something with you for others. The thing itself is so much more than any word. Christ is so much more than anything you say about Him. The truth is always less than Himself. But one never understands how much that means till he has seen Christ. Have you seen Christ? Then others shall see Him, too, in you, and through you.
This is the glory of the goal--face to face with Himself. It begins now. It is a very real thing. This is a bit of the meaning of that mountain beatitude, "the pure in heart ... shall see God." Yet only he who sees understands what seeing means. The subtle intensity of God's presence cannot be explained, only understood by the purified in heart. Only the opened eyes see.
But this is only a beginning. There will be the far greater glory of the final goal, as we come into His immediate presence, literally face to face. That may be when we are called away from the lower road up to the higher reaches, above the clouds and the blue, the glory-reaches, up where He now sits. It may be by that goal coming nearer, by Himself actually coming on the clouds in great glory, for His own and for the next chapter in His great world-plan. Then we shall be caught up into His presence. Then we shall be fully like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
And we shall be sharers in His glory, in the Kingdom time of glad earth service. But we shall be thinking only of Himself--face to face.