J Bruce Ikin
Luke 11: 21 - 23
John 12: 31, 32
Luke 24: 10 – 35, 49
Ephesians 4: 1 - 3
This verse in Luke’s gospel, that “he that gathers not with me scatters”, came to me about a fortnight ago. I felt searched to the core by this verse. I was wondering about speaking of it at this occasion, and then last Lord’s day the other scriptures I have read came to us in the reading and I felt more than confirmed to speak about the way the Lord Jesus gathers: the way He does it.
In Luke, we are exhorted to gather with Him. His words are, “He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathers not with me scatters”. I am searched as standing here, and no doubt everyone in this room will be searched as to whether you and I are gathering with Him or not. If I am not then I would be guilty of scattering. To gather with Him I need to see how He gathers. I also need to be with Him. The enemy is the one who would scatter the sheep. He seizes and he scatters the sheep but there is One who is stronger than he. The Lord Jesus speaks of the one “who serves for wages, and who is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees”, John 10: 12. How did the Lord Jesus serve? He served in love; love for His Father, His love for the sheep, His love for undertaking the will of the Father, cost what it may. He is the good Shepherd; He is the One who has laid down His life for the sheep. What a cost it has been to Him. He has gathered, He has brought me into the flock, and I trust He has brought everyone here in this room to the flock; and He is forming His assembly and the power for that is in the Holy Spirit.
In John’s gospel He speaks about His voice. As a result of His voice there is the forming of the one body. The result of His voice is that they become one. If we are to arrive at being together, dear brethren, it must be as a result of hearing His voice, what He is saying at the present time. I feel searched as being asked to speak here but it is that the Lord might speak, that it might be His voice; and it is for each one of us to hear Him. How do we come to Him? Hebrews tells us that that is by leaving the camp, “therefore let us go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach”, Heb 13: 13. It is not an easy way, but it is the one way: one way for every believer, one way is presented in Scripture, one way that is indicated by the Spirit, one way as indicated by the Lord Jesus; and it is through understanding what it is to bear His reproach that we find what it is to be there in the way.
I read from John because we see the way that the Lord Jesus has served and the way that He has given Himself. He indeed was lifted up upon the cross; think of the way that He has taken, “now shall the prince of this world be cast out”. He is greater than Satan. We know that Satan is strong; we know that from experience. If we are honest, we know that Satan is too much for us, but there is One stronger than he, One indeed who has taken away his power. How did He do it? It was through being lifted up, “and I, if I be lifted up out of the earth, will draw all to me”. This is the love of Christ, expressed in the way that He suffered, in the way that He was lifted up out of the earth. No one passing by could fail to see Him. Think of the ignominy, think of “the scandal of the cross” (Gal 5: 11); it was an awful thing that He was put there upon the cross, but He took that way. Man put Him there, but He took that way. He was prepared to suffer the ignominy and scandal of the cross because of His love for you and for me, and for His dedication to the Father’s will. It was that I should not only be saved from my sins, but should come into the knowledge of what it is to be at rest in His presence, and to gather with Him. He speaks of being lifted up out of the earth. This means that all that I am naturally, all my natural way of thinking, my natural feelings, all go there: they are judged, they are exposed for what they are at the cross. What a lesson that is, the way of the cross; we have to come back to that. Our brother spoke earlier of the need for humility; as we consider Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, we can only be humbled as we see what He has done for each one of us, lifted up. We know that He was lifted up as the serpent of brass put upon the pole, and that every one that looked lived, Num 21: 9. You would have to look up, and now you see there the One who was made sin for us (2 Cor 5: 21), who took on the whole matter and bore the judgment of God. As looking up to Him, I get relief, and not only relief but I see that I am delivered from all that bound me here on the earth.
I read from Luke’s gospel and this was particularly in mind as to the way He gathers. Luke presents factually the state of the company as it was. Conditions amongst the apostles were not as they should have been. It says “their words appeared in their eyes as an idle tale, and they disbelieved them”. The state was low. but what does the Lord do? He gathers. He gathers, and we have an example in these two persons here who were disappointed, they were disillusioned and confused. They did not know what to do; so they went back to Emmaüs, they turned their back on their brethren and they went to Emmaüs. The Lord Jesus did not leave them alone, just as He has not left me alone when I have gone astray. What a friend He is. Someone here, and I include myself, might feel troubled or disillusioned, might feel the brethren are this and that; the Lord knows and He would allow you to speak as to your feelings, but then He would turn you round. He will turn you round in His presence. It is a wonderful thing that He uses time to turn each of us round in relation to Himself; in relation to the way, the way of suffering that He has taken, the way that He has trod. The Lord Jesus listens to them; He listens to their discourse. They were speaking together and they were being scattered. Scattering was taking place, the enemy was in that. They were disappointed and as they speak it became evident that they thought that the Lord Jesus had failed in His mission. The Lord listened to them, He let them speak. What does He do? He brings in the answer and in doing so He shows grace: He then brings in truth.
A brother in the interval was speaking about how the Lord is marked by grace and truth. As having listened to them He rebukes them. Am I prepared to listen to the rebuke of the Lord Jesus in His presence, knowing that He loves me? He just shows me where I am in my poor state away from Him, in my disillusionment, in my disappointment. When it comes down to it, it may be I am really disappointed with the way He has taken, expressing my feelings which are natural. He is lifted up out of the earth so all that is gone. He explains everything. What a wonderful occasion this was. He covered the whole of scripture in this short interval.
The Holy Spirit would bring the Scriptures home to us and who are they about from cover to cover? They are about the Lord Jesus, the One who has revealed God, the One who has glorified God. He says, “O senseless and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!”. I may say I know the Scriptures, I am familiar with the ministry, but I have to come to it I have been senseless and slow of heart. He rebukes them, but He goes on with them, “And having begun from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself”. They were not yet turned round. In His presence, suddenly their eyes are opened. I think that would have been the eyes of their hearts. Paul speaks about the eyes of our hearts in Ephesians 1: 18. How it suddenly dawns on you as to the glory of the Person! I have read about it in the ministry, I have heard and been present at meetings and I have heard the brethren speak and I have heard wonderful things said, but it has not yet dawned on me as to the glory of the Person, and suddenly it dawns and I am turned round; it is really repentance. It was not that they were grossly evil persons but they were turned round, turned round to then find their part in the Lord’s direction to the way. This is mentioned twice as they retrace their steps. I do not think it took them very long to go back. They were quickly recovered to where they should be. I should have liked to have been there when they walked through the door. Think of what a reception they would have had when, as recovered persons, they “related what had happened on the way, and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread”. That is not literally the Lord’s supper but it was the way that the Lord did things, and thus they are fully restored. And not only that, but they help their brethren. It was part of the gathering process under the direct hand of the Lord Jesus. The Father has put the administration of this wonderful dispensation in His hands because He loves Him, and the result is that He gathers the saints to Himself.
In verse 49, they are under the commandment of the Lord Jesus. He simply asks them to do something. He says, “behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but do ye remain in the city till ye be clothed with power from on high”. Salvation, dear brethren, is in hearing and carrying out what the Lord Jesus would direct us to do. It is all in view of our being gathered together. We know Luke writes about it in the beginning of the Acts; they were together waiting for something to happen, and that was to be “clothed with power from on high”. A wonderful thing did indeed happen. The Holy Spirit came upon each one of them, and appeared as tongues of fire, Acts 2: 3, 4. He had descended on the Lord Jesus before but fire was not needed there. He was totally in accord with God’s will, sin not marking Him in any way whatsoever. With you and me, the fire is needed; but what a wonderful thing happened that the Holy Spirit sat upon each one of them. It was evident for all to see as a result of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, that then they were in perfect unity. We have been speaking of how separation from evil is absolutely necessary for God’s presence to be known. We also need grace, the power of unity and gathering, and so the two go hand in hand; and so it was the Holy Spirit who united the brethren here. We were reading at home of that prayer that went up, they “lifted up their voice with one accord to God” (Acts 4: 24), which is a wonderful thing. The evidence of power was there, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were assembled shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit”, v 31.
What about our day? We have read in Ephesians about the unity of the Spirit, and we know that is a tangible thing; it is a real thing. But it can be broken into, so that we are to use “diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit”. The unity of the Spirit, I believe, is known through being subject to Him, subject to what He says, what He is saying to the assemblies. The Lord Jesus, as the Lawgiver, would direct and give wisdom in each local assembly in relation to what is due to Him. The Holy Spirit speaks universally; the unity of the Spirit is known as we align ourselves with what He is saying at the present time. So we are to use diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit. That means I have to judge myself, my own feelings, and leave them there at the cross.
In addressing the divided state in Corinth, which was so grievous to Paul, amongst all the other things in his letter to the Corinthians; the first thing he brings out is the cross. My own feelings, my own inclinations, my own murmurings, my own rebellion against what the Lord might be saying I leave there at the cross, and identify with what He is saying, and with what the Holy Spirit is saying; and thus we find that there is power for unity in the uniting bond of peace. Without the unity of the Spirit there will be no uniting bond of peace. If we try to walk together in disagreement there will not be that bond. Our bond is in the truth and the power for understanding and walking in the truth is in the Holy Spirit. What a Friend we have, a personal friend and indeed One who would help us as together. The Lord Jesus has in mind that we should be maintained together in alignment with Himself, and the power for it is in the Holy Spirit.
May God bless the word.
31st May 2014