"That They Should be With Him"
An Address to Christian Young Men on Mark 3:13-19; 4:35-36; 6:7-12
I feel sure that in the hearts of all who know the Lord Jesus Christ and His wonderful grace, there is the desire to serve Him. That is one of the first instincts of the new life. Divine love is not satisfied unless it is serving its objects. We see that in all its perfection in the Lord Jesus Christ He is serving every one of us today, though He sits upon the throne of God in highest glory, and He is going to serve us when He gets us there in the glory, according to His own words. Since the Lord has put into our hearts a love which is responsive to His, it follows that we desire to serve Him, and it is a great thing to see the way in which the Lord prepares us for service.
In Mark 3 the Lord calls His disciples. He did not send them forth till the 6th chapter. They spent the intervening hours with Himself. It is most important to notice that He called them to Him that they might be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach. First, that they might be with Him, and I am sure you will agree with me that everything depends upon our being with the Lord Jesus Christ. How otherwise could we possibly serve Him in a way that will be acceptable to Him? First of all, there is His sovereign call. We did not seek Him; He sought us. We did not first call for Him; He called us. We did not choose Him; He chose us, as he said to His disciples in John 15, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” Blessed be His name! He had a right to choose us He had a right to call us; is He not Lord of all? If Lord of all, it is perfectly right that every one of us should acknowledge that Lordship. But He has gained for Himself the right to call us by the love that told itself out in suffering on the cross. Love that bore the stripes and sorrow, love that suffered on the tree demands that we should be entirely at His disposal, and so He has called every one of us who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us rejoice in that fact and remember that the first thing is that we might be with Him.
Why is it necessary that we should be with Him? It is necessary that we should be with Him because there is no safety apart from Him.
“’Tis only in Thee hiding,
I feel myself secure
Only in Thee abiding,
The conflict can endure”
We must be with Him if we are to be maintained, if we are to be kept from the snares of the devil, if we are to live aright, if we are to please Him. We must be with Him for the safety of our Christian living. We must be with Him in order to be preserved by the grace that is in Him. You remember how that comes out in connection with David and those who gathered round him in the cave of Adullam. David said to Abiathar, the priest, “Abide thou with me, . . . . with me thou shalt be in safeguard.” As long as we abide with Him we are in safe keeping. If we wander from Him, we shall be the playthings of the devil.
Then He has chosen us that we might be with Him as the guardians of His Person. David had his bodyguard in those 400 men that went down to him in the cave, and the Lord has chosen us that we might be His bodyguard. He Himself personally is no longer in this world. He does not need our protection. He does not need that we should use the sword on His behalf. He did not need that His disciples should do that when He was here. But nevertheless there is a sense in which we are to protect the Person of the Lord. He is not here, but the truth as to His blessed Person has been committed to us, and that truth is the point of attack. We who have been chosen by Him, and called to be with Him, have this great privilege, that as His bodyguard we should stand up for the truth as to the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. I do not suppose the devil cares very much what else is maintained if the truth as to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ is allowed to slip. Oh, beloved Christian young men, everything depends upon it, that you maintain first and foremost, and consistently unto the end, the truth as to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, His eternal deity, His holy spotless manhood, His sacrificial death upon the cross, His bodily resurrection, His ascent to the right hand of the Majesty on high, His coming back again. Oh, how precious it is to us whose eyes have been opened to receive it! He
Came from Godhead’s fullest glory,
Down to Calvary’s depths of woe.
He trod through a sinful world a straight path of light, a path uncheered by earthly smiles, leading only to the cross; but every beat of His blessed heart as He trod that path was altogether for God’s glory. He was just as holy when He hung upon the cross of Calvary as He was when He sat upon the throne and made the angels, just as holy in His manhood as He was in His Godhead. And He is our Saviour! This we must maintain, and lay down our lives if necessary in order to maintain it. We must not give it up. We are the bodyguard of the Son of God. We are to maintain the truth as to His holy Person.
Then we have been called to be with Him that we might share His fortunes. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. We must not forget that He is the rejected Christ, still rejected by the world, and we are called to share in His rejection. The reigning day has not come, yet it is coming. The crowning day is coming by-and-by, when the great God will bring Him forth, His brow decked with every diadem that the hand of God can put upon it, when the wide universe from the highest angel in the glory down to the meanest demon in hell will confess Him as Lord. That day is coming, and in that day we shall share His glory. But then, in anticipation of that day of glory we are to be here sharing His rejection. Just as those 400 followers of David shared his fortunes when he was rejected, and so shared his glory when he was exalted, so we are called to share our Lord’s rejection now, and His glory presently.
We are called to be with Him also that we might take character from Him, for in our service to the Lord the way in which it is done counts for very much. The Spirit of God may be able to use one who is very unlike the Lord, but such an one is scarcely a vessel meet for the Master’s use; and so we need to be with Him that we might take character from Him. We are formed by the company we keep—every one knows that—and if we keep the Lord’s company, if we are with Him, then we shall be formed in His likeness. His character will become impressed upon us. We shall become like Him in meekness and in every beauteous grace. We shall not assert ourselves. We shall not be pushful, aggressive men when it is a question of any interest that may be ours particuarly. We will be prepared to go into the background that our Lord and Master may be put into the foreground; “He must increase, but I must decrease”—that is the lesson we learn as we keep the company of our Lord and Master. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”—and then we read of His glory, and we come down to His shame. He made Himself of no reputation, but became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Oh, what a wonderful education it must have been for those disciples to have been with the Lord! Hear Him say, “I am among you as He that serveth.” And were those merely words? Oh, no! They had seen Him going down and doing the most menial acts in order to serve them. It is written of Him, “Even Christ pleased not Himself.” If we are with Him we shall bear His character, and we shall be marked by the things that marked Him. It is necessary then that we should be with Him that we might be impressed with His character, and so be witnesses as well as servants, showing forth in life, as well as telling forth by lip, the blessed truth of God.
But then there was another reason, and this is the most touching of all. The Lord chose those disciples to be with Him because love cannot be satisfied without the company of the loved ones. Their company was more to the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ than all the service they could render to Him. He wanted them to enter into the most intimate fellowship with Himself. He wanted to have them as His friends. “Ye are my friends,” He said, and a friend is one to whom you can communicate your innermost thoughts. That is what He wanted. He wanted them near to Himself because He loved them. There is a very touching appeal in the Song of Solomon on the part of the Bridegroom to the Bride. The Bridegroom says to the Bride, “Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice; cause me to hear it.” It is as though our Lord said to us, “You come together, and you talk to each other about Me. You are dwelling in the garden I have planted by My grace, and you have sweet things to say. Let Me hear you talk to Me.” The Lord chose the disciples that they might be near to Him, that He might have them in His company as His friends, that there might be the most intimate communications of love between them; and so it is today. Oh, that our hearts might respond to Him, delighting in the Lord’s company, because we know the blessedness of His love!
Then, after He had named His disciples, using His sovereign right in that respect, it says, “they went into an house.” That is, He did not send them forth upon the public streets at once. He took them into the house, into the home, and I think if you carefully read through Mark’s Gospel, and Luke’s Gospel as well, you will find a great deal about the home. Jesus often went into houses, and sent other people into houses, and I believe it would be for us a most instructive study to mark out all these different passages, and to learn the meaning of them. From the fact that He took them first into the home, I gather that there was to be made manifest first in the domestic circle the power of the grace that He would communicate to them. If we are to be successful servants in the outer circle, if we are to go forth into the world and serve the Lord there, there must be first the manifestation in the inner circle of the home, the most difficult circle, where we are most and best known. It is there the Lord would have manifested first of all the grace with which He has blessed us.
But then He went with them. He did not send them in and stay outside. He went with them. They had Him there, and so, if they were in doubt as to any matter, there He was. They could refer to Him. Indeed, they had only to keep their eyes upon Him, and do just as He did. They had only to tell Him all the difficulties. He was there, the wisdom of God, in the midst of them. A greater than Solomon was there, and with Him there in the home, things would be very easy, very simple, as long as they were simple and dependent. Oh, how blessed to have the Lord in the home, and ourselves with Him, learning in the innermost circle first of all the power of that grace that He would have manifested through us in the wide outer circle of the world’s need.
Well, now we come to the 4th chapter. Between this 3rd chapter and the 6th chapter, where they are sent forth, you will find two very important things The 4th chapter is very largely taken up with the parable of the sower, which brings out the absolute necessity of the Word of God. The Lord said to His disciples, “If you do not know this parable, how will you know all parables?” This lies at the very beginning. Are you going to serve the Lord? You are absolutely dependent upon the Word of God. That is the seed that produces the harvest. Apart from that you have nothing. I know that men who profess to be servants of the Lord are ashamed of the Gospel. Like the man in the parable, they put the pound in a napkin, and bury it in the earth; and then go forth doing business with their own base coin, upon which there is not the image and the superscription of the King. We must have the Word of God, for only the Word of God can do the work of God. So the beginning of chapter 4 emphasizes that fact—that if we are to serve the Lord aright it is by using the Word of God. In the 5th chapter we find they had to learn the mighty power of the Lord Himself. He met the power of the devil; He met the demons. These disciples were with Him when He manifested before their very eyes His personal power. We must know the absolute necessity of the Word of God, and we must become acquainted with the personal power of our Lord Jesus Christ. “All power is given unto Me,” He says. We do not serve one whose arm is weakened, and whose outstretched hand cannot save. The One who made the worlds, and broke the power of the devil in death, is enthroned above all principalities and powers, and from that place of exaltation He ministers His power to those who are serving Him. The more truly we are held by the thought of the might of the Lord, the more successfully we shall serve Him. “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” There is no evil force in this world that can stand before the power of His might These two things they had to learn; the Word of God necessary for the work of God to be done, and the might of His power by which it is all accomplished.
I read that little verse in connection with the crossing of the lake, because there is one point there which is of great importance At least, I want to hang a very important point upon what comes out there. The Lord said, “Let us pass over unto the other side.” I wonder if we realize that there is this side, and there is that side, and the Lord would have us pass over from this side to the other side. What is this side? This side is the place where they spat upon His sacred cheek and crowned His head with thorns. This side is the place where they laid the cross upon His shoulders, and led Him with a rabble at His heels to Calvary’s hill, and there crucified Him upon a malefactor’s gibbet. This side is where they cried, “Away with Him! Away with Him!” and mocked His sufferings until His head was bowed in death. What is the other side? The other side is where they cried, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and let the King of Glory come in!” And up through the plaudits of the countless hosts of heaven He ascended to the throne. Oh, beloved Christian young men, do we know what it is to pass over to the other side, to transfer our hopes, our affections to that side, to sever our links, as far as we may, with the world that cast Him out, and lay hold of that scene where He has been exalted, and where He is glorified. To which world do we belong? That is the question—to which world? Oh, surely not to the world that crucified Him, but to the world that has enthroned Him. Then let us pass over to the other side, and in our service to the Lord let us be unworldly. Let us turn our backs upon this world and all its allurements, and every effort it may make to draw us away from this outside pathway. Let us pass over to the other side. Blessed be God! that is our destiny, and there we shall be, but oh, that we might be there in heart and spirit now!
Then it says they took Jesus with them even as He was. We must have Him even as He is. I was talking in the train the other day to a man of some prominence in the socialistic movement, and he was telling me that he was quite ready to accept the Sermon on the Mount. Well, I was pretty certain he was not, so I said to him, “If you read the Sermon on the Mount three times carefully, you will be no longer ready to accept it.” He said, “I believe in Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. I believe in the Carpenter of Nazareth. I believe in the Man that went about doing good.” But he would not have Christ on the cross. They are saying today, as they said when He was here, “Come down from the cross, and we will believe on you.” What would have been the use of any of us believing on Him if He had come down from the cross? The only way in which He could save us was by remaining there, and if we receive the Lord Jesus Christ, if we take Him at all, we must take Him as He is, Christ crucified, the power and the wisdom of God. But then you say, “If I stand up for a rejected Christ, I will meet with a great deal of opposition.” If you do, you will find the power of the Lord put forth on your behalf. What could have been apparently weaker than the Lord asleep on a pillow in the stern, which is the helmsman’s seat? I can understand those disciples saying, “Why, the Helmsman is asleep. If we had only put sturdy Simon Peter there, or one of the sons of Zebedee, we might weather this tempest.” Ah, but He understood. Does it seem as though you were left to battle with the tempest alone? Do not lose your confidence in Him. They came to Him, and said, “Carest Thou not that we perish?” What was the result? They doubted His love, but His love was not changed by that. They doubted His care, but that did not alter Him. He rose majestically and spoke one word to that raging tempest, and it came down to His heel as a dog would come to the heel of his master. He was Master of the tempest, and He stilled it. Oh, if we have put our lives into His hands, all we need is quiet, simple confidence in Him; and, be assured of this, He will never, never fail us. Does service for the Lord make demands upon us? Suppose in obedience to the Lord’s command you went forth to preach the Gospel in Russia, or in some other country in which the servants of the Lord are persecuted, that would mean great suffering for you. It would mean the tempest and the storm; but then, if you have been called of the Lord to that, and if you have been with Him, learning of Him, and conscious of the wonderful power that is in Him as the Master of every tempest, then, instead of being like those disciples, filled with great fear, you would be perfectly confident. If we are with the Lord, and conscious that He is with us, then we can go forth in rest and peace of heart, and that is how He would have us go forth. We will be free from all distraction, to wait upon His service. A distracted heart cannot serve, and if we are thinking of ourselves, and of our safety, we are distracted. When we have confidence in Himself, when the peace of God garrisons the heart and the mind, we can serve and follow Him.
Then it is in the 6th chapter they are sent forth. He calls them and sends them out with His messages, and they go forth to preach that men should repent. You may be sure of this, that those who go forth thus to serve Him at His call, who have passed through the experience of the preceding chapters, will serve Him successfully and according to His mind. The day of service, we are sure, is not going to be very long. We shall hear His blessed voice calling us soon to meet Him in the air, and then the day of service will be over. But, oh, what joy it will give Him to receive His servants into that glory, and to say to them, “Well done!” His voice will send a thrill through our hearts; but, be sure of this, His joy will be infinitely greater than ours, His joy in bestowing the reward, His joy in giving His approval, will be far greater than ours possibly could be in receiving it. The Lord, then, help every one of us to understand, first of all, how to be with Him, and then how to go forth and serve Him.