Jude 1: 20, 21
Romans 5: 8-11
Romans 8: 31, 32, 38, 39
1 John 4: 9-14, 19
I seek help, beloved brethren, to speak of what Jude refers to, “keep yourselves in the love of God”. Jude was diverted to write about the increasing powers of darkness. I do not know what he would say of the evil, satanic powers working in this world today, attempting if possible to undermine the faith of the saints, and seeking to disturb them in their happy relations with God, that God may not have His full portion. Jude sums up in those words, “keep yourselves in the love of God”.
You might think that is hardly necessary. It is all around us, “the love of God”; man could not breathe without the love of God being active. If God withdrew His breath all flesh would expire.
The love of God is all around us, and yet we are exhorted to keep ourselves in it. The two and a half tribes did not do it. You may say, if speaking in our time, that they were like Christians, but the two and a half tribes did not keep themselves in the love of God. What happened? They built a memorial, distance came in. That good land that had been preached to them - I like those words of Moses: “the good land that is beyond the Jordan”, Deut 3: 25. Moses told them about it; he had never been in it, but he had told them something about it, because he kept himself in the love of God through that wilderness journey. He says, “thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations”, Ps 90: 1. I often think of that; Moses was a busier man than anybody here, carrying the troubles and anxieties of all those people, and at the end of the day there he is in his tent keeping himself in the love of God, “thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations”.
I seek, dear brethren, that we might be encouraged to keep ourselves in the love of God. That is why I read in Romans. “God commends his love to us, in that, we being still sinners”. He commended His love to you, at the very worst time in your history, when you were a sinner; by pointing you to Jesus. Nobody else could help you. We need to be reminded about it; we are apt to forget. Paul says, even to the Ephesians, “that ye were at that time without Christ ... having no hope, and without God in the world”, Eph 2: 12. At that hour He commended His love to you in pointing you to Jesus. It says, “in that, we being still sinners, Christ has died for us”. May I just address some of the younger ones for a moment? There will never be a time in your life when you are worse than when you were a lost sinner, and that is when God took you up. Through your history Satan will remind you that you were a sinner; but you can say Christ died,
My sins - O the bliss of this glorious thought -
My sins - not in part, but the whole -
Were borne on the cross,
and are gone evermore.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
Tell Satan that when he tempts you. He brings them up to disturb your soul, but God knew how bad a sinner you were and He commended His love to you in sending His Son. “We being still sinners, Christ has died for us”. The only way the matter could be met was that “God sent forth his Son, come of woman, come under law, that he might redeem those under law, that we might receive sonship”, Gal 4: 4. Think of God having those glorious thoughts in His mind for you, and the way He moved in His love to bring you to Himself. It says, “Christ has died for us”. That has ended the matter of your sins. If you know that Christ died for you, the matter of your sins before God is settled. May it be kept before us that Christ has met once and for all this question of our sins.
It is not only has He died for us - many people will tell you that Christ died for them - but the reason I read this scripture is that He not only died for me but He lives for me at the right hand of God. I can look at any time and see myself presented before God in Christ. He lives for us. Not only has He died to justify us, that means He has cleared us entirely in God’s sight, you are set up a new man, “having been now justified in the power of his blood, we shall be saved by him from wrath”, but then it goes on, “saved in the power of his life”. That means today that He is living for you at God’s right hand. If you care to look - it is a wholesome study to look at John’s gospel, chapters 13-17 - you will see the Lord Jesus leading His own to the Father, and reminding them of “the power of his life”. It says of Jesus “having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end”, John 13: 1. That does not just mean the cross. It means He loves them through and through, the entire journey through. There was an old brother where we were who used to thank the Lord that He was an ‘all the way home Saviour’, a beautiful touch. He is going to take us all the way home; that is what He is doing in these chapters in John’s gospel: He is taking them home. He says, “I will not leave you orphans” (John 14: 18); there is “the power of his life” coming into expression: He sent the Holy Spirit to be in our hearts. It says, “the Father himself has affection for you”, John 16: 27. In those chapters He is introducing us into a whole economy of love of which He is the blessed Centre, “the power of his life”. That is how the testimony has continued through the ages, through the Holy Spirit being here and Christ at God’s right hand in glory serving us in “the power of his life”. That came into an old man’s mind many years ago - Jacob - the way he was living where there was a lack of food. There was certainly a lack of enjoyment. The brothers were arguing with one another but Joseph came into Jacob’s life. “Joseph my son is yet alive; I will go and see him”, Gen 45: 28. Will you go tonight? Is there a troubled heart in this room? Will you arise and go and see Him? Jacob did and spent the best of his days: “Joseph is still alive”, chap 26. There he was through his own obsession, perhaps with his history, perhaps as it were with the troubles in the meeting; he had got under a cloud, and he was a man that was just looking to dying in his sorrow, but that is not God’s thought. Joseph sent a message to him, he sent the gospel to him: “Joseph my son is yet alive; I will go and see him before I die”. What power flooded his soul, and he died a worshipper. God would have great sorrow in seeing persons dying without being in the joy of the power of that life. So Jacob, there he is going out in full sail, “saved in the power of his life”. I say these things to impress our hearts; God is commending His love to us. Why should it not be, dear brethren, that we strive to keep ourselves in the love of God?
In Romans the apostle who was writing there was certainly kept in the love of God; he kept himself in it. They put him in prison: what did he do? He wrote the epistle to the Ephesians, keeping himself in the love of God. Can any other creature separate us from it? From God’s side, no. From our side we get occupied with so many things and, alas, like those two and a half tribes we get out of the present enjoyment and liberty of keeping ourselves in the love of God.
Jude was concerned about that. He says you are to build yourselves up, “building yourselves up on your most holy faith”. There is the foundation. If you are going to build you need a solid foundation. What I have been speaking of brings us to a solid foundation, my sins are gone. Everything as to myself and my history is settled in the cross of Jesus. It has all been met in the power of His blood. His blood was the price. God sent Him forth first of all but then it says, “He who yea, has not spared his own Son”. That Man who was sent forth was the Friend of sinners. When Christ was here His holiness would have set Him apart from the race, but in His grace He became the Servant of all, how beautiful. That was the Man that God sent forth. He fed five thousand (Matt 14: 21), cleansed the lepers and raised the dead (Matt 11: 5), commended God’s love to us - and yet what did they do? “Away with this man”, Luke 23: 18. Dear brethren, these things are not far from our hearts; accepting the blessings, but not keeping ourselves in the love of God. We have got to start building. The foundation is that our sins are all met, the price has been paid, and God has been satisfied. Let Satan say what he will, God has been satisfied and He has commended His love to me as believing in the foundation of Christ’s finished work. The building is to go on. It says, “building yourselves up on your most holy faith”. That refers to what has been founded, what we have come into. We have come into a system that is called our “most holy faith”.
As things get scarce they take on a peculiar glory and beauty. Peter speaks about the “precious blood ... of Christ”, 1 Pet 1: 19. The faith is “most holy faith”. It is a reference to what has been founded in the apostles. It is referred to in Acts as “the teaching and fellowship of the apostles, in breaking of bread and prayers”, chap 2: 42. These are all things that are in the foundation and they are going through. They may be assailed and they are assailed but they are going through. That is something to start and build your soul upon; the apostles’ teaching. Men will say it is only Paul, only Peter, it was written a long time ago, they will tell you times have changed and you cannot work them out now, and so they go for something inferior; but that is a shaky foundation. God has founded something in the apostles’ teaching, and He has founded it to go through; and the glorious effects of it will be seen one day in the bride in glory, coming down graced in all the glories of divine love. Today we are to be building ourselves up on our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. Here is an elevation to your prayers that maybe you never thought about. We pray in our need; that drives us to Christ, but here it is “praying in the Holy Spirit”. It is good if you say things in your prayers that you had not thought about when you started, there are examples of that in Scripture. We sometimes try and rehearse what we are going to say and we have our sorrows and all these things that we may not get past. Praying in the Holy Spirit will take us perhaps a little past our own needs and thoughts.
It is very fitting that John should write about love so much because he kept himself in the love of God. How? By leaning on the breast of Jesus (John 21: 20), and in His bosom (John 13: 23), he kept near. Peter was a little bit further away, he was not too sure about things at times; but there is John leaning on His breast and knowing the answers because he was keeping himself in the love of God. He says, “he has given to us of his Spirit”, the power to go against the stream. If you look carefully at the Scriptures you will see that power is connected with the Spirit. It is a great feature of the Spirit being here that there is power in the believer to go against the stream, to keep himself in the love of God. That beautiful passage in Ephesians, speaks about coming into what is eternal. It says “according to the power that works in us”, Eph 3: 20. Not only is the Spirit a divine Person to be worshipped but there is the power of the Holy Spirit working in the believer to keep themselves in the love of God and go against the stream. Through the power of the Spirit we have a real experience of how things are going through and we are kept in the joy of divine love. John says, “Beloved, if God has so loved us”. What is the effect, if God has so loved us? He is looking for results of these features of Christ coming out in the saints. It says, “if God has so loved us, we also ought to love one another”. There is deliverance, we love ourselves so much but if God has so loved us, does that not take us beyond ourselves and what we are? It gives us to appreciate what God has done in others; “we also ought to love one another ... if we love one another, God abides in us”. The power to love one another is by the Spirit. If we look at one another without God’s viewpoint we may find it difficult, but the saints are God’s possession. They are His workmanship and there is something to be seen today in them that would draw out our affections and give us a bond together to love one another. God is grieved by these difficulties that come so often among us. If we abide in Him there is power and grace, developing the features of the heavenly Man to be able to love one another. That is how things are going to continue. The experiences we have had of breakdown would never have happened if we had been kept in the enjoyment of the love of God. We begin to envy, these things came in early, envy and strife and discontent. Naphtali is a beautiful man to think about, it says, “Naphtali, satisfied with favour, And full of the blessing of Jehovah” (Deut 33: 23) - there is a man who kept himself in the love of God. Dissatisfaction, if you care to look at it in your own heart, is the cause of much sorrow that comes in and crops up in our lives and histories. If God has so loved us there is to be some outshining, some fresh expression of it as I have said already for that to be so, He has given to us of His Spirit. That means there is an expression of Christ working in the hearts of the saints but there is something being worked out that has a divine stamp and character about it. These things are to encourage us to build ourselves up on a sure foundation. In the exercises that we face in proceeding in the building, we are to keep ourselves in the love of God, “awaiting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life”. That is the enjoyment now of what will soon be our heavenly portion in bodies of glory. Eternal life is presented as enjoyment now of what will soon be our eternal part, as keeping ourselves in the love of God.
I would like to speak just for a moment of some persons who did that in a remarkable way in Scripture. I would speak firstly about Abraham. Abraham was a man who was called out from a system of darkness and it says, “Abraham, being called, obeyed”, Heb 11: 8. That is one step in keeping ourselves in the love of God; we are obedient to His word. It says, “God’s word abides in you”, 1 John 2: 14. That was Abraham; Lot, alas, did not keep himself in the love of God. A believer no doubt, but he vexed His righteous soul through not keeping himself in the love of God. Do not look beyond the circle of the fellowship. God has called us into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Do not put yourself outside of the enjoyment of that fellowship. Lot did and he had sorrow upon sorrow. We hear nothing much about him again. Peter must have known more than we do about him; he says, “he tormented his righteous soul“, 2 Pet 2: 8. There is Abraham who “being called, obeyed”, and what did he do? He continued his pathway here in the enjoyment of divine appearings. In the love of God, you get communications. There was Simeon; he was a man who in that dark day had kept himself in the love of God and it says, “it was divinely communicated to him by the Holy Spirit”, Luke 2: 26. Living, divine communications come as we keep ourselves in the love of God. Abraham got light for his pathway through keeping himself. He was called, and obeyed, and went step by step; that is how Scripture speaks about Abraham’s path, “walk in the steps of the faith ... of our father Abraham”, Rom 4: 12. That was his own faith working, attached to the foundation, attached to what God said: “the faith once delivered to the saints”, Jude 1: 3. Abraham’s own faith was building on that; if we put it in our day, building on what God had founded, and what he found was that each step God grew increasingly precious to him. Later in his life he speaks of God as, “the Eternal God”, Gen 21: 33. What touches come into his life as he is obedient, walking in faith.
Thy refuge is the God of old,
And underneath are the eternal arms
(Deut 33: 27)
- a God that has come into time, has come into the histories of His people and the support of those eternal arms are there to hold us and keep us in the love of God.
We referred in the reading to Daniel praying, and I would just like to comment on how Daniel kept himself in the love of God in a very dark day. In Daniel 9 he speaks of a dark time in history when he could not quite understand how things were going. He had been taken away captive, as God’s people had been given over into captivity through their failure of keeping themselves in the love of God, and Daniel looking abroad could hardly understand it; that is like many of us. It is difficult to understand how things are like they are; so he prays. I would suggest he was praying in the Holy Spirit; these things pressing on his heart, the people that God had spoken so well of as His own possession, there they are in their troubled circumstances. “In the first year of Darius ... I Daniel understood by the books that the number of the years, whereof the word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah the prophet, for the accomplishment of the desolations of Jerusalem, was seventy years. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes”, v 1-3. There was a man who was keeping himself in the love of God by prayer. Jude speaks about that: “praying in the Holy Spirit”. In the ways of God many things distress us but there is one comfort, as another has said: we may not understand them but we know the God whose ways they are, and that makes a great change. That is what was happening here with Daniel; he knew the God whose ways they were; and what did he do? He read the books. The book of Jeremiah was not too attractive a book to be reading in such a day, but there it was, he understood by the books that God had everything in hand. It was all measured: so in the midst of dark troubled times, he kept himself in the love of God.
Understanding by the books: there are many books abroad today, dear brethren, that would seek to try to explain things, but there are books that have divine authority about them; they are the Scriptures. They have divine authority: “they persevered in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles, in breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts 2: 42), and these things all have divine authority about them. We will understand if we read the books, if we take them to heart, if we walk in the instructions. It says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”, Ps 119: 105. If we allow the power of the Scriptures, and the authority of the Spirit behind them, we will be helped through the ways that we do not fully understand because of our attachment to the God whose ways they are. Daniel understood by the books that things were all in hand. I never look at Daniel without looking up that verse at the end of the book: “go thy way until the end; and thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days”, Dan 12: 13. What a word to a troubled heart, God says, you can see Him just putting His hand on a praying man, “go thy way ... and stand in thy lot at the end of the days”.
I would like to speak about another man, Caleb, a man who kept himself in the love of God, when all were against him. In Numbers 14, the people were saying that God had proposed what He could not accomplish. That is how we get if we do not keep ourselves in the love of God; we begin to think that things are impossible; and if you only look at the breakdown you may well think like that. If you look at what things are in man’s hand you may say, ’How could it be?’. Caleb knew how it would be. Why? He got a sight of the land. That is a wonderful stability to the soul. He was a man who kept himself in the love of God by embracing the purpose of God. We may not understand His ways but His purpose is unchangeable. His purpose was to bring them into the land and Caleb laid hold of that. It says that he “stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up boldly and possess it, for we are well able to do it”, Num 13: 30. What a word; a man standing against all these others, all that they were saying, says, “we are well able”. “The land, which we passed through to search it out, is a very, very good land. If Jehovah delight in us, he will bring us into this land, and give it us”, Num 14: 7, 8. Dear brethren, do not have any doubts about that. The breakdown that we see will end in glory: the saints will come through it, out of the breakdown into that good land that Moses spoke of. He must have heard Moses speaking about it too. Moses heard Caleb speaking about it. “The land, which we passed through to search it out, is a very, very good land.” It was becoming more precious to him as the days went on, so that further on in that chapter it says, “Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, lived still of the men that had gone to search out the land”, v 38. Where were the others? They had not kept themselves in the love of God. Here is a man who is embracing God’s purposes, which are all centred in Christ. “In him is the yea, and in him the amen”, 2 Cor 1: 20. Whatever promises of God there are, He is the Yea and Amen. Not what man is going to do, or how man is going to do things, or what they think about things. The whole purpose and promises of God are centred in Christ. “God has made him, this Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”, Acts 2: 36.
Dear brethren, may our hearts be encouraged to keep ourselves; God has commended it to us in Christ. There is no one else; He sent His Son and He has put Him there in a position to carry the whole thing through according to His mind, to carry us through as we keep ourselves in His love. May we be encouraged to do so for His Name’s sake.
26th October 2012