1 John 3:8;
Isaiah 53: 1-2 “ground”;
John 14: 30-31; 16: 7-11;
Luke 8: 26-39;
Galatians: 4: 26, 30-31
I would like to refer to the thought of influence. I am not for the moment referring to influence, however important, between one and another, but the influence that God requires over against the influence that the world has on us. We are in critical times. God has not changed.
It is quite clear in 1 John 3 that the devil has not changed from the beginning. He is a liar from the beginning; he is deceptive; he is the ancient serpent. It is very solemn to remember that the whole race is affected by influence. We cannot say that we are not under influence. The world lives that way. Man as away from God is under the influence of the devil. That is a sobering matter to take account of. Mankind cannot get clear of it. Without God there is no way to get him out of that influence, he is servant to that evil being, and I thought we should consider it that when the devil came in - in the beginning in Genesis - the serpent said to Eve, “ye will be as God”, Gen. 3: 5. His purpose was to displace God’s influence on the human family and insert his own, because he was making himself the ruler of the world. That is what the devil did, and every inhabitant in the world from then until now has experienced what it is to be under the influence of that one. In the first family were Cain and Abel. According to John, “Cain was of the wicked one” (1 John 3: 12), and in divine grace God worked in a man like Abel; he came under the influence of God. The world lies in the wicked one. That is the position we are in. The young should know that the world lies in the wicked one, and there is such a being as the ruler of this world. A spiritual man like Mr Stoney said he felt the very air that we are surrounded with, not as created of God, but the very air or atmosphere of the world was detrimental to spiritual gain, vol 2: 87. I am saying to you now that the world lies in the wicked one and all are under the powerful influence of the devil in this world; yet the world does not belong to him. The only way to redeem man from that influence was for One to come in who was free from that influence. Thanks be to God, He came in! That is the glad tidings. Christ came in, “the Son of God has been manifested, that he might undo the works of the devil”. That is glorious news! Does it fill your soul that when man could not redeem himself, could not extricate himself, the Lord Jesus came in to break the power of the devil? That is what Christ did.
The devil has not been removed yet, but he surely will be. You will still face his influence at school, you will face it in the teaching of schools, you will face it in the spirit of business, you will face it everywhere. The media, everything, is just filled with the power of the deceptive influence of the devil under which man lies. The world lies in the wicked one and they cannot extricate themselves, but here is the Son of God being manifested. It says, “To this end the Son of God has been manifested, that he might undo the works of the devil”. He has got power to do it, and He has shown in coming in and going through as He did that He had power. He had power on earth, it says, to forgive sins, see Matt 9: 6. He had the power here in His Person, but His work at the cross effected it, blessed be His Name! Thank God He did it. What power is in the hand of Christ! Even the keys of death and of hades are in the hands of Christ. What a Person He is. Do you not want to be linked with Him? Why be ashamed of Him? Why refuse or hold back in confessing His name? This is the One that was manifested to undo the works of the devil. Who could do it before that? No one could do it, not even Abraham, Moses, or David, great men as they were. They could not undo the works of the devil. Only One that came in who was free from the influence of the devil would have power over him. It says a ‘stronger than he coming’, Luke 11: 22. What happened? He bound the strong man and plundered his goods. Thank God for it! What a Person He is. Do you get a thrill in your soul that this almighty powerful Person has come in?
So I have read in Isaiah 53. He says, “For he shall grow up before him as a tender sapling, and as a root out of dry ground”. Have you thought who that could be? Who could the prophet be speaking about? Who grew up like this? Isaiah said earlier that Israel had to take root downward and bear fruit upward (chap 37: 31), but of this Person it says, “as a root out of dry ground”. He was not influenced by the surroundings, He did not draw from them; His sap was from God. The source of that holy manhood was from God: He grew up before Him as a tender sapling. Have you thought for a minute how unique the Lord Jesus was? He came in free of the world’s influence. The devil brought every temptation to Christ and found he could never spoil that holy perfect manhood. That was the Lord Jesus. Every one of us has fallen to temptation. We have given in to it, we have lived in it according to our will. ‘Oh’, you say, ‘I have never murdered anybody, I have never committed fornication, I have not done this or that’, but you are a sinner. You were, or may be still, under the domain and bondage of sin. That is Romans 6: 16. You cannot excuse yourself. Everyone is shut up in that.
“A tender sapling” - Jesus was never hard. When the Lord Jesus was here His character could not be changed by what He faced here. His grace just poured out of Him. In Psalm 45: 2 “Grace is poured into thy lips”. It was not from another source exactly, but He was full of grace, and it was the overflow of it, “Grace is poured into thy lips”. No wonder the psalmist speaks about Him in such an affectionate way in Psalm 45. Here this Person grows up before God. What that precious life was to God! Yet God was prepared for that precious life to be forfeited, and I say forfeited not on His account but on your account and mine. That life had to be given up. What appeared was the intrinsic perfection of this blessed manhood and the through-and-through purity of it. How hard sin makes us! Think of your own history. You do something not right, you hide it, and maybe your parents say something, or the brethren, and you feel an inward hardness. You know sin effects hardness in a person, but with Christ, He was sinless and He was a tender sapling. He was a root “out of dry ground”. In one sense He never contributed anything to the surroundings. He came in His grace to meet man, but He never absorbed anything of what was in man. He wondered at the hardness of the heart of man. Think of the grace of Christ. He felt it, but it never altered the grace that was coming out. He never withheld His hand from a leper who was wanting to be cleansed, or a blind man that needed sight. As Jesus was leaving Jericho, the city of the curse, on His way to Jerusalem to suffer and die, He stopped at the call of Bartimaeus, Mark 10:46. Was there hardness in the heart of Christ? No. Beautiful manhood! He was the only One that was free of the influence of the devil, the only One who ever lived in this scene who was free, and the only One that could break its power in your soul and in mine. That is the glad tidings, to break the power of sin in your soul, and that is the way He can do it.
It says in John 14, “For the ruler of the world comes, and in me he has nothing”. The ruler of the world comes. He does not need to come to you or me, we are already under his power. He comes to the Lord Jesus and He says Himself, “in me he has nothing”. Is that not wonderful? Are you glad Christ came in to break that influence? He will destroy that evil influence over the world in the day to come by His power. In His grace He can emancipate you from it now. You are of the fallen race and you say, ‘Yes, I accept there was a fall in sin coming in’, but you have sinned, I have sinned, we have responsibility. Those who have not yet reached the age of responsibility, God takes account of. But you and I, that have reached that age, are responsible for our own sins. In 2 Peter 2, “The dog has turned back to his own vomit; and, The washed sow to her rolling in mud”, v 22. The devil knows our weaknesses and tries to influence us. He comes to this Person and he has no entrance. He was here in perfect obedience to the influence of God. Think of that One that went through superior to the rule of the world, and in doing so He was getting a foothold in the lives and hearts of men and women through His work. I think that is wonderful.
In chapter 16 it refers to the coming of the Spirit and where this demonstration is effected. He says, “For if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you”. What a privilege, being in the company of Christ on earth, to be one of His disciples. From the baptism of John right through to His ascension they were in His company, but He says, ‘It is better if I go’. He says that in verse 7, it is better if I go, “it is profitable for you that I go away”. The Spirit was going to come. We not only have one Comforter, we have two because we have got Christ above and we have got the Spirit here. You are better provided for. It is difficult at school or in business, but nevertheless the Spirit is given and when the Spirit comes the effect of His presence in the believer is a demonstration to the world. It says that “he will bring demonstration to the world, of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment”, and it says “of sin, because they do not believe on me; of righteousness because I go away to my Father, and ye behold me no longer; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged”.
Now that judgment has got to be in you and me. There is no option, if you have received the Holy Spirit. That is the intended effect of His presence in your heart and in mine that the ruler of this world is judged. In principle it is the expression of the kingdom. Persons are set up here. We do not have any past; we have dealt with it in our souls. We have judged the world and everything in it, and we are free of its influence. You know, that is one thing that will come out in the judgment in Revelation that while the devil is viewed from the beginning as a deceiver, the two great emissaries arising from our time are the beast, and the false prophet who deceives the nations, chap 13: 14. I think that is where the great deception lies because the greatest light has been witnessed in this time. Well, the ruler of this world is judged, and you have that in yourself. The power of the world is broken. The children of Israel were not clear of the power of Egypt and the world while they were in Egypt, Exod 12 - 14. They had the blood on the lintel and door-posts; they knew they were clear of judgment through the blood of the Passover lamb, the angel passed over. They did not come under judgment, but typically the Red Sea involved the breaking of the power of the world, but they still hankered back, Exod 16: 3. They still wanted to go back to Egypt, they were not thoroughly clear, but the power of the Spirit is the power to be thoroughly clear and that maintained in the hearts of believers; “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged”. Then “of righteousness, because I go away to my Father, and ye behold me no longer”. Is that not a demonstration? He could not remain here. He has now set up a new centre in the presence of the Father and we are meant to be taken up for it.
In Luke 8 we have the man, and the woman, and the child. It is a great privilege to see so many children here. This man had been secured, he has been delivered from the influence of Satan and the world. It says, “a certain man out of the city met him”. The city, as well as the tombs, was all in the scene of death. That is what the world is. You come to it that we are passing through the world for testimony and for righteousness, but the world you are passing through involves an area of death. This man is delivered out of it. What deliverance this man knew, and he is clothed and sensible at the feet of Jesus. He is under new influence, he is under new management. What a difference! Do not forget what you were. Remember that you were under the influence of Satan, and we trust through divine grace all here are brought to the feet of the Lord Jesus to be under His influence. What a Person! God has placed authority in the most attractive point in the universe in the ascended Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. Is that not blessed? So I would say this man was delivered. The remarkable thing was that the multitude came out and they asked Jesus if He would depart from them. How extraordinary! The world does not want Him. They were right in the presence of Someone who could deliver them from such an atmosphere of death into such an atmosphere of life and joy, and they said, ‘We want you to depart’. And He left them. Is that not sobering? But He leaves the transformed man as a witness to His powerful work. It is still the dispensation of grace and persons can be delivered from the power of the evil one.
Finally, in Galatians these persons were reverting to the law. They were trying to make perfect the flesh. They started well, “Ye ran well”, chap 5: 7. I think we sometimes forget that, but something had come in, something had hindered them, they had come to a halt. Do we always go forward? We have to confess that our love ebbs and flows. We need encouragement; come to the meeting and be lifted up. We need to move forward. They thought, 'now that we have received from Christ, we can walk according to the law'. They were really going back to the law, to Judaism, and what the apostle says here is there is no inheritance for the son of the maid servant. Hagar was the Egyptian maid servant to Sarai, Abraham’s wife, and there was a time when he gave her a portion and sent her away, but the inheritance was Isaac’s. That is emphasised here - there is no inheritance for Hagar; there is no inheritance for the children of the one that is under bondage. Dear brethren, in the present day, “Jerusalem above is free, which is our mother”. What an influence to be under! What liberty! What joy! It is an administration of goodness. That is what it means.
You know, in a day to come the nations will come up to the earthly Jerusalem, the literal city in the Middle East. The nations that do not go up to it will come under the wrath of God, Zech 14: 17-19. In Galatians it refers to the present, Jerusalem which is above. It is not the earthly Jerusalem, it is the Jerusalem above. Think of the liberty, think of the inheritance that is linked with this because we are the children of the free woman. He was just saying, ‘Why go on, Galatians, with such a petty outlook when Jerusalem above is free, and there is liberty, and there is well-being, everybody looked after and every need met’. Is that not blessed? That is the influence we need to be under. Do not let us return to the law - how easily it comes in. We think we can go by law. Law effected nothing, but brought out the sinnership of the people. But grace and everything that flows from that city which is above, our mother, that is the influence we are to be brought under.
I trust these thoughts encourage the brethren. We need to go into it, we need to see that we are delivered from the influence of the world. It is insidious. Every day, I do not doubt for a minute, it has its attempt to break through in our hearts if we are honest. We should see and discern. What does John say? “Prove the spirits, if they are of God”, 1 John 4: 1. Do not just swallow everything that comes, even if it sounds good, because there might be something in it to deceive your heart and mind. Keep under the influence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and may Jerusalem above be our mother in a practical way. May God bless the word to us all.
4th June 2005