“And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine .” —Luke 15:31.
The words of the text are familiar to us all. The elder son had complained and said, that though his father had made a feast, and had killed the fatted calf for the prodigal son, he had never given him even a kid that he might make merry with his friends. The answer of the father was: “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine .” One cannot have a more wonderful revelation of the heart of our Father in heaven than this points out to us. We often speak of the wonderful revelation of the father’s heart in his welcome to the prodigal son, and in what he did for him. But here we have a revelation of the father’s love far more wonderful, in what he says to the elder son.
If we are to experience a deepening of spiritual life, we want to discover clearly what is the spiritual life that God would have us live, on the one hand; and, on the other, to ask whether we are living that life; or, if not, what hinders us living it out fully.
This subject naturally divides itself into these three heads:—1. The high privilege of every child of God. 2. The low experience of too many of us believers. 3. The cause of the discrepancy; and, lastly, The way to the restoration of the privilege.
1. THE HIGH PRIVILEGE OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD.
We have here two things describing the privilege: —First,
That was the privilege of God’s people in Old Testament times. We are told that
Let that thought into your hearts—that the child of God is called to this blessed privilege, to live every moment of his life in fellowship with God. He is called to enjoy the full light of His countenance. There are many Christians—I suppose the majority of Christians—who seem to regard the whole of the Spirit’s work as confined to conviction and conversion: —not so much that He came to dwell in our hearts, and there reveal God to us. He came not to dwell near us, but in us, that we might be filled with His indwelling. We are commanded to be
There are some people who seem to think that God, by some unintelligible sovereignty, withdraws His face. But I know that God loves His people too much to withhold His fellowship from them for any such reason. The true reason of the absence of God from us is rather to be found in our sin and unbelief, than in any supposed sovereignty of His. If the child of God is walking in faith and obedience, the Divine presence will be enjoyed in unbroken continuity.
Then there is the next blessed privilege:
2. In contrast with this high privilege of believers, look at
THE LOW EXPERIENCE OF TOO MANY OF US.
The elder son was living with his father and serving him
Some think these rich blessings are not for them, but for those who have more time to devote to religion and prayer; or their circumstances are so difficult, so peculiar, that we can have no conception of their various hindrances. But do not such think that God, if He places them in these circumstances, cannot make His grace abound accordingly? They admit He could if He would, work a miracle for them, which they can hardly expect. In some way, they, like the elder son, throw the blame on God. Thus many are saying, when asked if they are enjoying unbroken fellowship with God: —
And again, what about that other promise? The Father says,
Dear reader, we have such wrong thoughts of God. What is God like? I know no image more beautiful and instructive than that of the sun. The sun is never weary of shining; —of pouring out his beneficent rays upon both the good and the evil. You might close up the windows with blinds or bricks, the sun would shine upon them all the same; though we might sit in darkness, in utter darkness, the shining would be just the same. God’s sun shines on every leaf; on every flower; on every blade of grass; on everything that springs out of the ground. All receive this wealth of sunshine until they grow to perfection and bear fruit. Would He who made that sun be less willing to poor out His love and life into me? The sun—what beauty it creates! And my God, —would He not delight more in creating a beauty and a fruitfulness in me? —Such, too, as He has promised to give? And yet some say, when asked why they do not live in unbroken communion with God,
3. THE CAUSE OF THIS DISCREPANCY BETWEEN GOD’S GIFTS, AND OUR LOW EXPERIENCE.
The believer is complaining that God has never given him a kid. Or, God has given him some blessing, but has never given the full blessing. He has never filled him with His Spirit.
God’s word teaches us, in the story of the Israelites, that it was unbelief on their part that was the cause of their troubles, and not any limitation or restriction on God’s part. As Psalm 78th says:—
If there is to be any deepening of the spiritual life in us, we must come to the discovery, and the acknowledgment of the unbelief there is in our hearts. God grant that we may get this spiritual quickening, and that we may come to see that it is by our unbelief that we have prevented God from doing His work in us. Unbelief is the mother of disobedience, and of all my sins and short comings—my temper, my pride, my unlovingness , my worldliness, my sins of every kind. Though these differ in nature and form, yet they all come from the one root, viz , that we do not believe in the freedom and fullness of the Divine gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and strengthen us, and fill us with the life and grace of God all the day long. Look, I pray you, at that elder son, and ask what was the cause of that terrible difference between the heart of the father and the experience of the son. There can be no answer but that it was this sinful unbelief that utterly blinded the son to a sense of his father’s love.
Dear fellow believer, I want to say to you, that, if you are not living in the joy of God’s salvation, the entire cause is your unbelief. You do not believe in the mighty power of God, and that He is willing by His Holy Spirit to work a thorough change in your life, and enable you to live in fullness of consecration to Him. God is willing that you should so live; but you do not believe it. If men really believed in the infinite love of God, what a change it would bring about! What is love? It is a desire to communicate oneself for the good of the object loved—the opposite to selfishness; as we read in 1 Cor. xiii.
4. THE WAY OF RESTORATION—HOW IS THAT TO BE BROUGHT ABOUT?
We all know the parable of the prodigal son and how many sermons have been preached about repentance, from that parable. We are told that
There are many children of God who need to confess, that though they are His children, they have never believed that God’s promises are true, that He is willing to fill their hearts all the day long with His blessed presence. Have you believed this? If you have not, all our teaching will be of no profit to you. Will you not say,
May the Lord God work this conviction in the hearts of all cold believers. Have you ever heard the expression,