Chiefly in the Pauline Epistles, we open upon those pages of the Word of God which give us the yearnings of the child of God in some of their highest forms. We find that the most intense desires are after the Son of God in heaven, in and by whom God has now revealed Himself and to whose image in glory His people shall be conformed (Rom 8:29).
The channels made by the Father in His children are of a heavenly character. Our Lord, a Man in heaven, the Lord Jesus in glory, object for the affections, rest for the heart, known and delighted in through the Spirit, forms in the heart these channels for the flowing of Christian longings. True Christian desire may be summed up in these few words: “That I may know Him” (Phil 3:10). David longed for Jehovah in the sanctuary; Paul longer after the Lord Jesus in the glory.
Paul’s Epistles major in the truths which free the spirit from legalism and self-effort and establish the believer in the Lord Jesus at the Father’s right hand. These delivering truths may be termed mainly positional, relating as they do to what the believer is in the Lord Jesus; which position is not affected by the practical condition of the soul.
But if freed by the truth, the need is great that the soul be stirred up to the things which relate to the believer’s condition day by day on earth. With this in view, we place the desires of the heart first, for the head follows the heart and the whole being goes where the heart leads. The actual condition of each soul is brought to the test by the Lord’s own question, “What think ye of Christ?” (Matt 22:42). Personal fellowship with Him makes each believer what he really is; we do not say what he may seem to be.
Paul, in the treasury of Christian longings referred to, gives the only true principle in this one phrase, “To me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). In proportion as the Lord Jesus in glory is the object of our faith, He is the principle of our Christian living. If the many things of sight are filling our hearts, the world is the object we have in view; and when such is the case, the believer, at best, speaking practically, is like a heavily burdened man trying to run a race. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself and not even truth about Him must be filling our hearts, if we wish to thrive and grow.
This is no unnecessary caution in a day when knowledge of the most sacred truths may be intellectually attained by so small an effort. It is a happy thing to understand that Word of God, but, with that Word treasured, the aim of the believer’s affections should ever be, “That I may know Him.” Desires after the Lord Jesus, desires to manifest Him on earth and to live with Him in heaven, make the believer separate from the world and separate him to the Lord in glory. Practice flows from affection.
The Lord Jesus died for us and rose again; it is for us, not to live to ourselves but to Him. “For the love of Christ constraineth us (bears us along); because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not live unto themselves, but unto Him” (2 Cor 5:14, 15). Truly, to reckon oneself to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ (Rom 6:11); to set the affection on things above, as risen with
Christ (Col 3:1, 2); and to manifest Him on earth (Phil 1:21), who is in us the hope of glory (Col 1:27), should be the life-mark of the child of God (Phil 3:14). Let other things flow out from this freedom—let service, walk and motives be produced by the Lord Jesus Christ, “Who is our life” (Col 3:4). – H F Witherby