Our Glorious Transforming
“ But now in Christ Jesus, you, who sometimes were far off, are made near by the blood of Christ.”
I DO not want you to feel at this time as if you were listening to a sermon, or to any sort of set discourse, but rather I should like, if it were possible, that you should feel as if you were alone with the Savior and were engaged in calm and quiet meditation. I will try to be the prompter, standing at the elbow of your contemplation, suggesting one thought and then another, and I pray, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as many of you as are truly in Him, that you may be able to meditate as to be profited and to say at the close, “My meditation on Him was sweet. I will be glad in His name.” There are three very simple things in the text. The first is what we were. Some time ago “we were far off.” But secondly,what we are. It is “in Christ Jesus,” and it is added, “by the blood of Christ.” First, then, let us with humility consider, as Believers–
- WHAT WE WERE.
There was a day when we passed from death unto life. All of us who are children of God have undergone a great and mysterious change–we have been new-created, we have been born-again. If any of you have not experienced this great change, I can only pray that you may. But you will not be likely to take much interest in the theme of our meditation this evening. As many of you as have experienced this great change are now asked to remember what you were. You were far off, first, in the respect that you were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. The Jew was brought near. The Jewishpeople were favored of God with light, while the rest of the world remained in darkness. “To them He gave” the oracles. With them He made a Covenant. But as for the rest of the nations, they were left unclean and far off. They could not come near to God. This was our condition. We were Gentiles. We had no participation in the Covenant that God had made with Abraham. We had no share in the sacrifices of Aaron or his successors. We could not come in by the way of circumcision. We were not born after the flesh and we had no right to that fleshly Covenant, however great its privileges. We are brought near now. All that the Jew ever had we have. We have all his privileges and more! He had but the shadow–we have the substance. He had but the type–we have the reality. But before our rebirth we had neither shadow nor substance–we were afar off and had no participation in them!
And, Beloved, when we think of our distance from God, there are three or four ways in which we may illustrate it. We were far off from God, for a vast cloudland of ignorance hung between our souls and Him. We were lost as in a tangled forest in which there was no pathway. We were like some bird drifted out to sea that would be bereft of the instinct which guides it on its course, driven to and fro by every wind, and tossed like a wave by every tempest! We knew not God, neither did we care to know. We were in the dark with regard to Him and His Character. And when we did make guesses concerning God, they were very wide of the truth and did not help to bring us at all near. He has taught us better now–He has taught us to call Him, Father, and to know that He is Love. Since we have known God, or, rather, have been known of God, we have come near, but once our ignorance kept us very far off. Worse than that, there was between us and God a vast range of the mountains of sin. We can measure the Alps, the Andes have been scaled, but the mountains ofsin no man has ever measured! They are very high. They pierce the clouds. Can you think of the mountains of your sin, Beloved? Reckon them all up since your birth–sins of childhood, youth, manhood and riper years–your sins against the Gospel, and against the Law of God, sins with the body and sins with the mind. Sins of every shape and form–ah, what a mountain range they make! And you were on one side of that mountain and God was on the other. A holy God could not wink at sin, and you, an unholy being, could not have fellowship with the thrice Holy God! What a distance!–an impassable mountain separated you from your God. It has all gone now. The mountains have sunk into the sea, our transgressions have all gone, but oh, what hills they were, once, and what mountains they were but a little while ago! In addition to these mountains, there was, on the other side nearest to God, a great gulf of Divine Wrath. God wasangry, justly angry, with us. He could not have been God if sin had not made Him angry. He that plays with sin is very far from knowing anything of the Character of the Most High. There was a deep gulf. Ah, even the lost in Hell know not how deep it is. They have been sinking–but this abyss has no bottom. God’s love is Infinite. Who knows the power of Your anger, O Most High? It is all filled, now, as far as we are concerned. Christ has bridged the chasm. He has taken us to the other side of it–He who brought us near–but what a gulf it was! Look down and shudder. Have you ever stood on a glacier and looked down a crevasse, and taken a great stone and thrown it down, and waited till at last you heard the sound as it reached the bottom? Have not you shuddered at the thought of falling down that steep? But there you stood but a little while ago, an heir of wrath, even as others! So the Apostle puts it, “even as others.” Oh, how far off you were!
Nor was this all, for there was another division between you and God. When, dear Friends, we were brought to feel our state and to have some longings after the Most High, the mountains of sin had been moved and the chasm of wrath been filled, yet there remained another distance of our own making. There was a sea of fear rolling between us and God. We dared not come to Him! He told us He would forgive, but we could not think it true! He said that the blood would cleanse us–the precious blood of the Atoning Sacrifice–but we thought our stains too crimson to be removed! We dared not believe in the Infinite Compassion of our Father! We ran from Him–we would not trust Him. Do you not remember those times when to believe seemed an impossibility, and salvation by faith appeared to be as difficult a thing as salvation by the works of the Law? That sea has gone away now! We have been ferried over its streams. We have no fear of God, now, in the form of trembling, slavish fear–we are brought near and say, “Abba Father,” with an untrembling tongue! You see, then, something of the distance there was between us and God. But I will illustrate it in another way. Think of God a moment. Your thoughts cannot reach Him–He is infinitely pure–the heavens are not clean in His sight and He charges His angels with folly. That is one side of the picture. Now look at yourself, a worm that has rebelled against its Creator, loathsome with sin, through and through defiled! When I see a beggar and a prince stand together, I see a distance, but ah, it is but an inch, a span, compared with the infinite leagues of distance in character and nature between God and fallen man! Who but Christ could have lifted up from so low an estate to so high a condition–from fellowship with devils to communion with Jehovah, Himself? The distance was inconceivable! We were lost in wonder at the greatness of the love that made it all vanish. We were afar off.
Now I have stated that very simply. Think it over a minute. And what do you feel as the result of your thought? Why, humility rises! Suppose you are a very experienced Christian and a very intelligent reader of the Bible. Suppose that for many years you have been able to maintain a consistent character. Ah, my dear Brother, my dear Sister, you have nothing of which to glory when you recollect what you wereif it had not been for Sovereign Grace! You, perhaps, have forgotten a little that you were just what the Bible says. You have been so contemplating your present privileges that you have, for a while, failed to remember that it is only by the Grace of God that you are what you are! Let these considerations bring you back to your true condition. And now with lowly reverence at the foot of the Cross bow down your soul and say, “My Lord, between me and the greatest reprobate there is no difference but what Your Grace has made. Between me and lost souls in Hell there is no difference except what Your Infinite Compassion has deigned to make. I humbly bless You, and adore You, and love You because You have brought me near.”
Now we shall continue our contemplation, and take the second point. We have a bitter pill in this first one, but the next consideration kills it, takes the bitterness away and sweetens it! It is–
II. WHAT WE ARE–WHAT WE ARE.
“We are made near through the blood of Christ.” You will please observe that the Apostle does not say, “We hope we are.” He speaks positively, as every Believer should. Nor does he say, “We shall be.” There are privileges reserved for the future, but here he is speaking of a present blessing, which may be now the object of distinct, definite knowledge,which ought to be, indeed, a matter of present experimental enjoyment. We are brought near. What does he mean by this? Does not he mean, first, what I have already said, that as we were far off, being Gentiles, and not of the favored commonwealth of Israel, we are now brought near, that is to say, we have all the privileges of the once favored race? Arethey the seed of Abraham? So, are we, for he was the father of the faithful and we, having believed, have become his spiritual children. Had they an altar? We have an Altar of which they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. Had they a high priest? We have a High Priest–we have One who has entered into Heaven! Had they a sacrifice and paschal supper? We have Christ Jesus, who, by His one offering, has forever put away our sin and who is today the spiritual meat on which we feed. All that they had, we have, only we have it in a fuller and clearer sense! “The Law of God was given by Moses, but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ,” and they have come to us. But we are brought a great deal nearer than the Jew–than most of the Jews were–for you know, Brothers and Sisters, the most devout Jew could not offer sacrifices to God. I mean, as a rule. Prophets were exceptions. They could not offer sacrifices, themselves–they could bring the victim, but there were some special persons who must act as priests. The priest came near to God on the behalf of the people. Listen, O you children of God, who were once afar off! It is the song of Heaven! Let it be your song on earth–“You were slain and have redeemed us unto God by Your blood, and have made us priests and kings.” We are allpriests if we love the Savior! Every Believer is a priest! It is for him to bring his sacrifice of prayer, and thanksgiving, and come in, even into the Holy Place in the Presence of the Most High! And I might say more, for no priest went into the Most Holy Place of all, save one, the high priest, and he, once a year, not without blood and not without smoke and incense, ventured into the Most Holy Place. But we, Brothers and Sisters, see the veil taken right away and we come up to the Mercy Seat without the trembling which the high priest felt of old, for we see the blood of Jesus on the Mercy Seat and the veil rent–and we come boldly to the Throne of Heavenly Grace to obtain Grace to help in time of need! Oh, how near we are–nearer than the ordinary Jew! Nearer than the priest–as near as the High Priest, Himself, for in the Person of Christ we are where He is, that is, at the Throne of God! Let me say, dear Brothers and Sisters, that we are near to God today, for all that divides us from God is gone. The moment a sinner believes, all that mountain of sin ceases tobe. Can you see those hills–those towering Andes? Who shall climb them? But lo, I see One come who has the scars of one who has died upon a cross! I see Him hold up His pierced hands and one drop of blood falls on the hills, and they smoke–they dissolve like the fat of rams! They burn to vapor, and they are gone! There is not so much as a vestige of them left. Oh, glory be to God, there is no sin in God’s Book against the Believer! There is no record remaining–He has taken it away and nailed it to His Cross and triumphed in the deed. As the Egyptians were all drowned in the sea, and Israel said, “The depths have covered them; there was not one of them left,” so may every Believer say, “All my sin is gone, and we are pure, accepted in the Beloved, justified through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.” Oh, how glorious this nearness is when all distance is gone!
And now, Brothers and Sisters, we are near to God, for we are His friends. He is our mighty Friend and we love Himin return. Better than that, we are His children. A friend might be forgotten, but a child–a father’s heart yearns towards him. We are His children. He has chosen us that we may approach Him, that we may dwell in His courts and abide, and go no more out forever. “The servant abides not in the house forever, but the son abides always.” And this is our privilege. And yet even more than that. Can anybody here imagine how near Jesus Christ is to God? So near are we, for that is the Truth of God which the little verse sings–
So near–so very near to God,
More near I cannot be!
For in the Person of His Son
I am as near as He!"
If we are, indeed, in Christ, we are one with Him–we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones, and He has said, “Where I am, there shall also My servants be,” and He has declared that we shall receive the Glory–the Glory which He had with the Father before the world was. What nearness is this!
Now I have stated that Truth of God, I want you now to feed on it for a minute and draw the natural conclusions, and feel the fit emotion. Beloved, if you are brought so near to God, what manner of lives ought you to lead? Common subjects ought never to speak traitorous words, but a member of the Privy Council, one who is admitted to the Court, should certainly be loyal through and through! Oh, how we ought to love God who has made us near!–a people near unto Him. How ought heavenly things and holy things to engross our attention! How joyously we ought to live, too, for with such high favors as these it would be ungrateful to be unhappy! We are near to God, Brothers and Sisters. Then God sees us in all things–our heavenly Father knows what we have need of–He is always watching over us for good. We are near to Him–let us pray as if we were near God. There are some prayers that are dreadful from the distance there is evidently in the mind of the offerer. Too generally liturgies are addresses to a God too far off to be reached, but the humble familiarity which boldly comes trembling with fear, but rejoicing with faith, into the Presence of God–this becomes those who are made near! When a man is near a neighbor whom he trusts, he tells him his griefs, he asks his help. Deal thus with God! Live on Him, live for Him, live in Him! Be never distant from a God who has made you near unto Himself. Our life ought to be a heavenly one, seeing that we are brought near to God–the God of Heaven! Brothers and Sisters, how assured every one of us may be of our safety if we are, indeed, Believers in Christ, for if we are made near by love and friendship to our God, He cannot leave us! If, when we were enemies, He brought us near, will He not keep us, now He has made us friends? He loved us so as to bring us up from the depths of sin when we had no thoughts, nor desires towards good–and now He has taught us to love Him and to long for Him, will He forsake us? Impossible! What confidence this Doctrine gives!
And once more, dear Brothers and Sisters, if the Lord has brought us near, what hope we ought to have for those who are farthest off from God today! Never be you among that pharisaical crew who imagine that fallen women or degraded men cannot be uplifted again! You were sometimes far off, but He has made you near. The distance was so great inyour case that surely, He who met
that can also meet the distance in another case! Have hope for any who can be brought
under the sound of the Gospel! And labor on until the more hopeless, the most hopeless are brought there! Oh, let us gird up our loins for Christian work, believing that if God has saved us, there remain no hurdles! The chief of sinners was saved years ago. Paul said so. He had no mock modesty. I believe he said the truth. The chief of sinners has gone through the gate into Heaven and there is room for the second worst to get through–there is room for you, Friend, as there is room for me. The God that brought me near has taught me to know that no man is beyond the reach of His Grace. But I must leave that with you, hoping that it will flavor all your thoughts tonight. Once more. The last thing we are to consider is–
III. HOW THE GREAT CHANGE WAS WORKED.
We were put into Christ and then through the blood we were made near. The Doctrine of the Atonement is no novelty in this house. We have preached it often–no, we preach it constantly–and let this mouth be dumb when it prefers any other theme to that old, old story of the Passion, the Substitution and consequent Redemption by blood! Beloved, it is the blood of Jesus that has done everything for us! Our debts Christ has paid, therefore, those debts have ceased to be. The punishment of our sin Christ has borne and, therefore, no punishment is due to us. Substitution has met a case that is never to be met by any other means. The Just has suffered for the unjust to bring us to God! We deserved the sword, but it has fallen upon Him who deserved it not, who voluntarily placed Himself in our place, that He might give compensation to Justice and full liberty to Mercy. It is by the blood that we are brought near, then! Christ has suffered in our place and we are, therefore, forgiven. But think about that blood a minute. It means suffering–it means a life surrendered with agony! Suffering–we talk about it, ah, but when you feel it, then you think more of the Savior. When the bones ache, when the body is racked, when sleep goes from the eyelids, when the mind is depressed, when the head turns, ah, then we say, “My Savior, I see a little of the price that redeemed me from going down into the Pit.” The mental and physical suffering of Christ are both worthy of our consideration, but depend upon it, His soul’s sufferings were the soul of His sufferings! And when we are under deep depression, brought near even unto death with sorrow, then again we think of how the Savior bought us. The early Church was noted in its preaching for preaching facts. I am afraid now that we are too noted for forgetting facts and preaching Doctrine! Let us have Doctrine, by all means, but after all, the fact is the great thing. When Paul gave a summary of the Gospel which he tried to preach, he said, “This is the Gospel that I have preached–that Jesus Christ was crucified, died, was buried, rose again.” There in Gethsemane, where bloody sweat soaked the soil. There on the pavement, where the lash tore again and again into those blessed shoulders till the purple streams gushed down, and the plowers made their furrows, and the blood filled them. There when they hurled Him on His back to the ground and fasten His hands to the wood with rough nails–there when they lifted Him up and dislocated His bones when they fix the Cross into the earth. There where they sit and watch Him, insult His prayers and mock His thirst while He hangs naked to His shame in the midst of a ribald crew. There where God, Himself, forsakes Him, where Jehovah turns His face away from Him, where the Sufferer shrieks in agony, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”–there it is that we were brought near, even we that were far off. Adore your Savior, my Brothers and Sisters–bow before Him. He is not here, for He is risen, but your hearts can rise and you can bow at His feet. Oh, kiss those wounds of His! Ask that by faith you may put your finger into the print of His nails and your hand into His side! “Be not faithless, but believing,” and let all your sacred powers of mind assist your imagination and faith to realize, now, the price with which the Savior brought you from an intolerable bondage! God grant you Grace to feel something of this.
I have laid the Truth of God before you. Now sit down and quietly turn it over in your mind. And what will strike you? Why, surely first the heinousness of sin. Was there nothing that could wash out sin but blood? And was there noblood that could wash it out but the blood of the Son of God? O Sin! O Sin! What a black, what a damning thing you are! Only the blood of an Incarnate God can wash out the smallest stain of sin. My heart, I charge you to hate it! My eyes, look not on it. My ears, listen not to its siren charm! My feet, run not in its paths! My hands, refuse to handle it! My soul, loathe, loathe that which murdered Christ and thrust a spear through the most tender heart that ever beat!
Next to that, do you not feel emotions of intense gratitude that if such a price was needed, such a price was found?God had but one Son, dearer to Him than Isaac was to Abraham, and though there was none to command Him to do it, as there was in Abraham’s case, yet voluntarily the gracious Father led His Son up to the Cross. And it pleased the Father to bruise Him. He put Him to grief. He gave Him up for us! Which shall I most admire–the love of the Father, or the love of the Son? Blessed be God, we are not asked to make distinctions, for they are One! “I and My Father are One,” and in that sacred act of the Sacrifice for the sins of men, the Father and the Son are both to be worshipped with equal love. You see, then, the heinousness of sin in some degree, for its needing for its pardon the love of Jesus, and the love of God that gave the Savior’s blood.
But, dear Friends, before I sit down, let me remark that we learn from our text and from the whole contemplation what it is that would bring us experimentally nearer than we are tonight. How did I get near first? Through the blood! Do I need to get near to God tonight? Have I been wandering? Is my heart cold? Have I got into a backsliding state? Do I need to come close, now, to my blessed Father, and again to look up to Him and say, “Abba,” and rejoice in that filial spirit? There is no way for me to come nearer except the blood. Let me think of it, then, and let me see its Infinite value. It is sufficient, let me hear its everlasting, ever-prevalent plea, and oh, then I shall feel my soul drawn, for that which draws us nearer to God, and will draw us right up to Heaven, is none other than the crimson cord of the Savior’s endless, boundless, dying, but ever-living love!
And this teaches me, and teaches you, too, and here I have done, what it is we ought to preach and teach if we wouldbring the far-off ones in–if we would bring near to God those that now wander from Him. Philosophy, bah! You will philosophize men into Hell, but never into Heaven! Ceremonies you can amuse children with and you can degrade men into idiots with them, but you can do nothing else! The Gospel and the essence of that Gospel, which is the blood of Jesus Christ–it is this which is an Omnipotent leverage to uplift the filth, debauchery and poverty of this city into life, into light, and into holiness! There is no battering ram that will ever shake the gates of Hell except that which every time it strikes sounds this word, “Jesus, Jesus, the Crucified.” “God forbid that we should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If it will save us, it will save others–only let us spread the good news, let us tell of the good tidings. Every one of us ought to preach the Gospel somehow. You that speak in common conversation forget not to speak of Him. Scatter such tracts as are most full of Christ–they are the best–others will be of little use. Write letters concerning Him. Remember His name is like ointment, full of sweetness–but to get the perfume you must pour it forth. Oh, that we could make fragrant all this neighborhood with the savor of that dear name! Oh, that wherever we dwell, everyone of us might so think of Christ in our hearts that we could not help speaking of Him with our lips! Living, may we rejoice in Him! Dying, may we triumph in Him. May our last whisper on earth be what our first song shall be in Heaven, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain and has redeemed us unto God by His blood.” Oh, I pray God to make this season of communion very sweet to you, and I think it will be if you have the key of our meditation tonight, and can unlock the door–if you know how far off you were and see how near you are by the precious blood!
Oh, there are some far-off ones here tonight, however, to whom I must say just this word. Far-off one, God can make you near! You can be made near tonight! Whoever you may be, He is still able to save, but the blood must make younear–the blood of Jesus! Trust Him. To believe is to live–and to believe means only and simply to trust, to depend upon. That is faith. Have confidence in Christ’s Sacrifice and you are saved! God grant you may be enabled to do it, for Jesus' sake. Amen.