"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." These words are simple and plain, but do we understand them? Do we have a practical knowledge of what they mean? If we do not, as professed followers of Christ, we are to understand that we need to make haste, and place our affections on those things that are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Why are we commanded to do this?--Because if we place our affections on the things of earth, we shall become earthly, common, and evil. Our minds take the level of the things on which our thoughts dwell, and if we think upon earthly things, we shall fail to take the impress of that which is heavenly. We would be greatly benefited by contemplating the mercy, goodness, and love of God; but we sustain great loss by dwelling upon those things which are earthly and temporal. We allow sorrow and care and perplexity to attract our minds to earth, and we magnify a molehill into a mountain. In speaking of that which we are called upon to endure, Paul says: "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look"--at our difficulties, while we magnify our trials, and think only of our hardships? No, but "while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Temporal things are not to engage our whole attention, or engross our minds until our thoughts are entirely of the earth and the earthly. We are to train, discipline, and educate the mind so that we may think in a heavenly channel, that we may dwell on things unseen and eternal, which will be discerned by spiritual vision. It is by seeing Him who is invisible that we may obtain strength of mind and vigour of spirit. This is the way in which Daniel received strength. He was called to act a part in the first place in the kingdom of Babylon, and proved himself a noble statesman in all his connection with the court. He lived a noble life, and presented a worthy example. His eye was fastened on things unseen and eternal. He realized that he was fighting in the sight of the heavenly intelligences, and his dependence was in God.
We may not be called upon to act a part in public affairs, but in whatever place we are called by the providence of God, we may confidently expect that God will be our helper. We are not to be a toy to circumstances, but to be above circumstances. We are not to be controlled by circumstances. When we are placed in trying positions, and find things about us that we do not like, that try our patience, and test our faith, we are not to sink down in despondency, but to take a firmer hold upon God, and prove that we are not setting our affection on things on the earth, but on things above; that we are looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus is to be the beginning and the end, the first and the last. He is to be our strength in every time of trial. God must be our sole dependence. When we drop God out of our reckoning, and cease to place our affections upon Him, we deprive ourselves of great benefit. We cannot afford to do this, and God cannot afford to have us do it! Why?--Because we have been bought with an infinite price, even with the precious blood of His only-begotten Son. God cannot afford to have us glorify the powers of darkness by turning our eyes upon things seen and temporal; for instead of being workers together with him, we cast our influence on the side of the enemy.
You are to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, at the same time realizing that it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. When we are labourers together with God, we cannot set our affections upon things below; for where our affections are, our thoughts will be; and where our thoughts are, there will be our treasure. When we dwell upon things seen and temporal, we fail to obtain divine knowledge, as did Daniel. What is our position today? Are we learners in the school of Christ, earnestly seeking to know what is the will of God concerning us? How many in this congregation believe that Christ is their personal Saviour? How many can say, "He saves me"? I know that He wants that I should be saved. He looks upon me as of value in His sight, and therefore I know that my thoughts, my words, and my works, all pass in review before Him. Everything that is connected with the purchase of the blood of Christ is of value in the sight of God. By the price paid for our redemption we are under obligation to devote our entire affections to Christ. We are to give God all there is of us; and in giving to God our all, are we to consider that we sustain a great loss?--No, for in giving to Him our talents, we are doubling them. Every gift He has given to us, when returned to Him, receives His blessing, that it may have increased influence in the work of God. Wherever you may be, you are to realize that you belong to Christ, and that your influence is to be as far-reaching as eternity.
At one time a lawyer came to Jesus and said, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Is there anyone here that wants that question answered? Jesus turned the question back upon the questioner, and said unto him, "What is written in the law? how readest thou?" The lawyer answered Him in a way that made manifest that he understood what the law comprehended. He quoted the words found in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart [not giving half to the world and a third to self, but all to God. Will there be anything left for the world?] and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live." Our whole being is required in the service of God. No reservation is to be made. But someone says, "Well, I do not know how I would succeed in the things of this world were I to carry out this instruction." You would succeed much better; for you would find that godliness is profitable unto all things, providing that which is essential for your welfare in this world and your happiness in the next. You would succeed much better; for you would have God to work with you. You would live as seeing Him who is invisible, realizing that you were working in the sight of the unseen world.
This is the way in which Moses succeeded. He lived as seeing Him who is invisible, and was therefore able to count the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. If men would live in this way, we should see their faces aglow with the glory of God; for they would be viewing the glory of the eternal, and by beholding, would be transformed into the image of Christ. But instead of this, how general is forgetfulness of God! How few are constantly beholding the unseen Guest, realizing that He is at their right hand! How many ignore his presence! Did we treat others as we treat Jesus, what discourtesy it would be thought!
Suppose a friend were with us, and we should meet an acquaintance on the way and direct our whole attention to our new-found acquaintance, ignoring the presence of our friend, what opinion would men have of our loyalty to our friend, of our degree of respect to him? And yet this is the way we treat Jesus. We forget that He is our companion. We engage in conversation, and never mention His name or include His instruction in our words. We talk of worldly business matters, and where it does not bruise the soul, where it is essential, we do not dishonour Jesus, but we do dishonour Him when we fail to mention Him in our intercourse with our friends and associates. He is our best friend, and we should seek for opportunities to speak of Him. We should ever remember that He is at our right hand, that we should not be moved, and we should ever keep Him in view. Our conversation should be of a character that would be of no offense to God. We are to be overcomers, co-partners with Jesus, not lending our influence to the work of the enemy. Although "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," yet not a soul of us will be saved who fails to cooperate with God. Although our salvation is dependent upon our cooperation with God, yet we can take no glory to ourselves; for Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith; all the glory is to redound to God. Christ is the beginning and the end, and we are utterly dependent upon Him.
Jesus says, "Without me ye can do nothing." Since this is our position, shall we permit our minds to wander to the ends of the earth? Shall we spend our probationary time in jesting and joking? Shall we fail to realize that it is a solemn thing to live? Men generally agree that it is a solemn thing to die; but it is a far more solemn thing to live. Why?--Because every soul surrounds itself with an atmosphere that has a telling influence upon those with whom we are brought in contact. Many gather to themselves the atmosphere that breathes from the powers of darkness. Even professed followers of Christ often permit the hellish shadow of Satan to interpose between the soul and God. Their thoughts, their words are of a cheap, common order, and they give others the impression that religion is a cheap thing. Oh, we cannot afford to give any such instruction! We who may be imbued with the Spirit of Christ, who may have His love in our hearts, His vivifying influence in our souls, should shed upon men a beneficial influence. We should be co-partners with Jesus. He says:--
"As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." These are the truths upon which we should dwell. Our bodies are built up from what we feed upon, and our minds, our experiences, will be after the order of that which composes our spiritual food. Jesus says: "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
Originally published in The Signs of the Times, January 9, 1893.