Exhortation - May 15


MAY 15
Reading: Colossians ch. 2

We have met once again, in the goodness of God, to remember the gift of the Lord Jesus and everything which is centred in him. Before us all is the wonderful prospect of unending joy and happiness in the Kingdom of God. We look forward to the day of his return and the fulfilment of the promises which have been made to the fathers of old. Because the reward is so stupendous, and because we often feel ourselves to be insignificant and with very little to commend us, we might wonder sometimes whether we will attain to it. Will the reward really be ours; all those good things promised in the Word, shall we enjoy them? Let us get it quite clear in our minds that we can attain to it, and we meet together Sunday by Sunday around the emblems to remind ourselves that it is God's wish that we shall do so, and that is why the Lord Jesus Christ died and rose again.

There are many verses in the Scriptures which are a help to us in this respect. "God is not willing", says the Scripture, "that any should perish"; and so we are permitted to see the way of life, and having become related to the good things which are centred in Christ Jesus our Lord, we hear our Master himself saying to us: "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." So let us get it into our minds that it is God's desire to see us in the Kingdom, taken to the right hand of His dear Son in the day of his glory. That is God's desire, and how thankful we are that He has given us so many helps on this road to the Kingdom.

First of all. the blessing of the Word. Not only is salvation declared in this Word but we are given the comfort, the warning, the help and the nourishment we need that we might go on day by day and at last attain the wonderful end. We sum up all these features of the Word when we speak of exhortation, which means that we are trying to impel and urge each other along the road. It is always a matter of satisfaction to the speaker to think of the variety of ways in which exhortation is given to us in the Word of Truth, so that we are never lacking in lessons if only we will think about them. We have the lives of all the faithful men and women of old, men like Abraham, Moses and David, and women like Sarah, Hannah and so on, and we remember that in principle their lives were just the same as ours. We recognise that their times and circumstances were different but they had the same problems to fight against as we have and they overcame in the same way that we must try to do; and when we read sometimes in the Word that some of them fell but they got up and started again, that helps us to do the same when similar circumstances assail us in our lives.

This morning we propose to dwell upon a phrase or two from the letter to the Colossians (ch. 2). In the chapter we have read together there is surely an excellent commencement in verse 6, where we read: "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him." That phrase would be enough, if we wanted it to be, to give us all the exhortation we need.

"So walk ye in him." In the Old Testament Scriptures we read of some who walked in a certain way. It is written that "Enoch walked with God"; and later on God revealed Himself to Abraham and said to him: "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect." And here is the Lord Jesus, the pre-eminent example, brought before us: "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him."

We like to think upon this term walk as being in step, so that we are, as it were, going along with Jesus and keeping in touch with him all the time. It appeals to us in that very simple way. This walk that we have with the Lord Jesus is not something which is intermittent; we cannot go if we like and stop if we please. O no, nothing of that kind at all. We cannot do that because it is "in him," so as we see the Lord Jesus we must try to be like him. The next phrase gives us an idea that we can dwell upon, how we can really be in him. Verse 7:". . . so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith." We think we might pause here. This is a simple phrase but surely it covers our life in the Truth. "Rooted, and built up"; what we might term the foundation and then the superstructure; and it is to be "in him, and stablished in the faith." We note that there is a certain order: first of all rooted, and secondly built up, and of course that is as it should be. Now the feature which appeals to us when we think of something which is rooted is that of a tree, and this might seem particularly apposite at the present time when, after many months when we have seen the trees bare with the branches stark and staring against the skyline, now the trees have budded and some of them have blossomed; the leaves have appeared and they are looking attractive again, clothed in their verdure and foliage. We think upon these things. It is easy to be impressed by the majestic splendour of some great tree as we stand beneath it. We may know one in our own locality. Year after year goes by and it continues to be a good landmark to us, and we look forward as the summertime comes on to see it blossoming again in all its beauty. The years come and the years go but still the tree remains the same, the only variation perhaps being that there is more growth.

Well now, what allows these magnificent trees to stand the gale, the tempest, the heat and the drought which come from time to time? Fundamentally it is because of their root growth, those unseen supports which stabilise the tree and in their own particular way sustain it. The larger the tree the greater the need for strong root growth. We suppose we could say those roots which are near the trunk of the tree, the base, are the supports, and then if we look at the roots we find there are trailers going from them, and finally out of those trailing roots there are little hair-like roots which obtain the aqueous nourishment from the earth—those elements which the soil is able to give them, and so the tree is fed thereby. They also perform another function, these roots: they bind the soil around the tree so that it stands strong and firm and secure.

Well now, there is a spiritual application to these things. We have to be "rooted in him." Where do we learn all about him, the Lord Jesus? It is in the Word, as we know. We go back to the book of Genesis and we read of him there, in "the seedbed of the gospel" as the book of Genesis has so rightly been termed. Then we come through to the Law and we see the Lord Jesus Christ in the various sacrifices that were offered and the enactments in connection with the Tabernacle. We come through to the Prophets. "They spake of me," says the Lord Jesus, and the Psalms also. And then we come to the gospel records where his life and work is brought before us, and so important is his life and work that we have four gospel records. We read them, following the Bible Companion, twice in the course of the year. Then we come to the epistles, based upon the teaching of the Lord Jesus, which God arranged for the apostles to leave on record that we in our day might be encouraged and strengthened.

If we are steeped in these things, if we read the Word day by day and become properly rooted, then we will be "stablished in the faith," and nothing will be able to turn us away from the things we have espoused. Whatever the gale or the tempest, the heat or the drought which might come in one way or another, we can stand up to them because of the root growth we have. And the impression these records make upon us will show how deeply rooted we are.

We would like to suggest that we can look upon the major roots which are at the base of the tree as our first principles, those first principles that stabilise us and make us secure. They are the basis of our hope, the purpose of God as centred in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then we look at the smaller roots which go out therefrom, and finally those little hair-like roots at the end, all doing their own particular work and helping to feed and nourish the tree. So we can take the old, old lesson therefrom, that we do need the daily feeding upon the Word, the incessant feeding on it, that we may grow thereby; and we feel that if we do that we can see the advantage which accrues to ourselves and to each other as the years go by.

Now the apostle in the letter to the Hebrews has a few verses which might illustrate what we mean in this connection and might fit in with the points we have already made. Let us turn to Hebrews 6. First of all the apostle speaks of the first principles: verse 1: "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit." Now he does not mean that we are to forget all about those principles when he says "leave them;" they are the foundation that we can build upon. We are not to keep on arguing about those things; they are there, they are solid, they are sure, those things he mentions—repentance from dead works, baptism, the resurrection of the dead. But we can go on, and so in verse 7 it says: "For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end." There we have in the apostle's words the thoughts which we have been trying to bring out from the Word this morning. We are thankful that such words are written: "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love." Little though it might be, God will remember it—He says so in the Word—and it will stand us in good stead in the day when we stand before the Lord Jesus.

"Rooted" and then "built"—"built up in him." Perhaps now we can come up above ground, as it were, and see the tree in all its beauty, with its foliage, and see the symmetry, the shape in which the tree has grown. The tree looks very graceful indeed with the leaves or flowers thereon. But they do something more than enhance the beauty of the tree. In very simple terms, those leaves breathe, and nourish the tree thereby. We all know how they take carbon dioxide from the air and it is transferred into substances which feed the tree. We breathe that out, it is no good to us, but the tree takes it in. That is why writers on these particular subjects tell us that the air is so much purer in the country than in the town where it is contaminated with soot and all those other things which are in town air.

It seems to us that here is another little lesson for us. We consider the tree, the roots extracting the various chemical nourishments from the soil and the leaves also helping in the same way. They are breathing correctly, shall we put it like that? Well now, what sort of air do we breathe—spiritually, we are speaking of, of course. What sort of air do we breathe? Do we breathe the spiritual blessings which God has arranged for us? Well, how do we get those? First of all, as we have said before, there is the reading of the Word, and secondly there is attendance at the meetings, and the meeting with our brethren and sisters and discussing various aspects of the Truth with them. Shall we ask ourselves whether that is our "atmosphere"? Here we would like to say that it is sometimes rather disturbing to notice the very great difference between the attendance at our lectures and Bible Classes, and our Sunday morning meetings. Let us get this quite right: we know there are some who are unable to come again; there may be distance, or finance, or children who have to be looked after, but we might well ask ourselves whether sometimes we could be there and we are not. And if not, when we are away what are we breathing then? If we are forced to be away from the meetings, are we taking the Word down and reading it, or reading the things the brethren have written on the Word, or thinking about those things that really matter? Or is our time spent on something else? What is our atmosphere, if we can put it in that way? There might be room for improvement, perhaps, with most of us, when we think upon these matters. Again we suggest that we can surely apply the lessons to ourselves.

So what a lot of lessons do come from such simple phrases as this one: "rooted, and built up." Now we turn to consider the Lord Jesus Christ. His root growth was perfect. We can see that root growth when he was assailed at different times by his contemporaries, and he would answer: "What is written in the law? How readest thou?" All those things he used to rebuff his adversaries were taken from what had already been written in the Old Testament Scriptures. He had perfect root growth, he knew the Word. We can be sure that the Word was a real help and sustenance to him in his day. It was because his root growth was so perfect that the foliage and fruit which he produced was of a similar nature. The fruits of the Spirit were seen to perfection in the Lord Jesus, and now our verse has said that we should walk with him. So we must try to have the same sort of root growth, to be built up in him, and, as we suggested in our opening remarks, keep in step with him. If we do this we shall finally have a place with him in the Kingdom when it is established. So to conclude, it seems to us that a verse or two from Psalm 1 might be most appropriate. It will tell us what our delight should be. Verse 2: here is the man who is the blessed of the Lord: "His delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a'tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit m his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth
shall prosper." That means, as we have said, that finally we shall be with the Lord Jesus in the Kingdom.

So as we take the emblems once again, let us be appreciative ot God's goodness to us and make the firm resolve that we will try and walk with the Lord Jesus the more closely now, that we might be with him then:—J. D. Webster


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