The Lord’s Twofold Claim on You
(Mark 10:17-22; John 6:66-69; 60-63; 20:26-28; 14:1-3)
May the Lord deeply impress upon our souls that solemn line of things that has been before us; that we may, from this time forward, as never before, be rendering to God that which is God’s. As long as Adam did that in the garden, he was blessed; and all was well. But he refused God’s claim—God who had made Himself known in His goodness as the Creator to him, and when he refused God’s claim and listened to the devil whom he did not know, and who had never done him any good, then instead of the blessing came the curse, and instead of life came death, and as every man has followed in that foolish, self-willed way, death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Every man born into this world, except Christ, the Holy One of God, refused the claim of God and was a sinner.
When God created man, stamping upon him His own image, He did it with a great purpose in view. His delights were with the sons of men and He had great things in store for them, but it seemed as though His purpose was to be frustrated since man, having refused God’s claim, had ruined himself and was found lying under the power of death, a poor, disobedient, self-willed dupe of God’s arch enemy. What was to be done? God was not baffled, He had eternal life for men who had brought themselves, by their sins, under the power of death. Something greater than they had lost by their folly—But how was that life to be reached? How was that life to be secured? The story is a wonderful one. From Godhead’s fullest glory came our Lord. The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father was found here in the manger at Bethlehem, a little babe. That blessed Person had come to show us the will of God; He had come to tread the path that our feet should tread; and He had come to be eternal life to us. There it was, the will of God manifest in Him; no other will moved Him, but God’s will, and there is God’s claim upheld by Him, for in Him was eternal life for us; everything that God could desire in Him; everything that we could need in Him—the only begotten, full of grace and truth. He showed forth the path of God’s will. That is one reason why He said to men “Follow Me.” The path of life is the path of God’s will, and if we would tread that path of life we must see it in Him and follow Him. But there is another point of view from which we may look at this word of the Lord, “Follow Me.” It was the Divine claim. He claimed the men whom He thus addressed. He was here in lowliness and meekness, going down even to the death of the cross, yet He was, notwithstanding, God over all. His feet trod the narrow, filthy streets of those Eastern cities, yet they were the feet of God. He was the Creator of all things; in His own blessed Person He was God over all, and so He had a right to every one of His creatures, and He put in His claim. And in Him God claims men, and all who own the claim have eternal life. He said to the rich young ruler, “Follow Me.” Own My rightful claim upon you and eternal life shall be yours. This man had got many things which other people covet. He had a good reputation; he had riches; all that which made life comfortable and made something of him, but there was evidently in his soul a sense of need. “What lack I yet?” he said, as Matthew’s Gospel records. “Good Master,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He felt there was something out of the range of sight and sense, that his earthly goods did not supply. Up to that time he had been moving in a circle of which he himself was the centre, a material sphere, and it had not satisfied him fully, but there was a sense in his soul that outside of that sphere there was something that he had not grasped, there was eternal life, if only he could add that to what he already possessed he would have nothing more to wish for. So he says, “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The Lord first of all put before him the Commndments, God’s will as the Creator, for His creatures upon the earth, which, if they kept them, would be life to them. Every one of us has failed in that just as this young man had failed, although he didn’t know it. Having failed on that road another was opened up to him. “Go,” says the Lord to him, “and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor.” Oh that tested him. I have no doubt the Lord laid bare that which was at the root of what held that young man to the sphere in which he lived—self was his centre; riches were his idol. The Lord did not say that to others; He said it to him. Yet, has it no application to us? There are people who imagine that their riches, or something that they possess naturally, will be of use to the Lord, and if they brought these things and threw them into His cause, how greatly that cause would be advantaged. The Lord does not ask for those things. He does no want them; it is YOU He is wanting. He could give to you a hundred-fold more of all those things if that would be good for you. It isn’t that that He is seeking; it isn’t what you possess that He wants, it is YOU. Beloved friends, the Lord would put in His claim in regard to every one of us. Above father and mother, wife, husband, or children, His claim must stand; it must be first, uncompromised, absolute. And in making that claim He declares that He is God, for none but God has sovereign and absolute right over us. It is you He wants. He says, “I want you for Myself, and you need Me for yourself.”
“Come,” He said to the young man, “follow Me!” There is wonderful music in that word “COME” The wooing note enters into it and the Lord is saying to us tonight, “COME.” A crisis was reached in the life of this rich young ruler, a crisis I believe has been reached in the lives of some of us here. And the Lord is saying to us “COME.” “You have filled your life with other things; and you have not been satisfied; you believed in Me long ago, but I haven’t got you yet; you have trusted Me as Saviour, but I have not possessed you yet, and I have a right to you. Come.” Thus He would talk with us. His words are easily understood. Isn’t it a blessed thing that the greatest Divine verities are presented to us in words that children can understand. Why, that babe of a few months knows what you mean when you say, Come. If you stretch your hands out to it, and put the meaning of the word into your tone and smile, it knows what you mean, and will respond if it can trust you. To us the Lord stretches out His hands, and He says, “Come, come, follow Me”—HIMSELF. The engrossing Object of the heart, the Pattern, Guide, Leader—displacing self and every other claim. If we withhold ourselves from Him, it matters little what else we yield to Him, we are withholding from Him that which is His, and our lives are not righteous lives. Once, our whole lives were lived without reference to Him. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. And it was just there that we came face to face with the infinite, the unspeakable love of God.” The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” All that self-pleasing, that denial of the Divine claim, all that doing of our own will instead of God’s, brought the blessed Son of God into the place of shame and death.
The young ruler reached this crisis in his life, and he refused the Lord’s claim. He made his decision. He turned back again into darkness from the light to which he had come. He returned again to that circle of which he himself was the centre; away from the One who had rightly claimed to be his Centre. “He went away grieved for he had great possessions.” We may be sure that the heart of the Lord was grieved. Oh, who can tell the grief that filled the heart of the Lord as He saw that young man choose earthly wealth to eternal life, and himself and his own will rather than Christ and the claims of God. How, beloved Christians, shall we treat this claim of the Lord? We have Gospel meetings in which we earnestly desire to bring sinners to decision for Christ—shall not this meeting take somewhat of that character in regard to us? What shall the answer be to this claim; this Divine claim on the part of the Lord?
What sort of path was it that the Lord trod? It was a path of rejection; He had to go into death. That comes out in chapter 6 of John’s Gospel in a very definite way. The will of God is declared in that chapter. “This is the will of God,” says the Lord Jesus in answer to those people’s questions, “that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” The will of God and eternal life are inseparable, to refuse God’s will is to tread the way of death. Then He presents Himself as the bread that had come down from heaven. It is not only that He has a Divine claim upon us, that He needs us because we belong to Him, but He is indispensible to us. Scotland is the land of cakes, and great is their variety, but you can do without them, but not without bread; bread is a necessity. You can do without dainties, but you must have bread, it is fundamental, and the Lord says, “I am the Bread of life,” an absolute necessity to life. He presents Himself like that. Do we know Him as the One who is absolutely indispensable to us. The One, blessed be His name, on the other hand, who is all-sufficient—but do we know Him as indispensable to life itself. How was He as the bread of life to be appropriated by us, who, when we saw Him, desired Him not? He changes the figure, and He speaks of His flesh and His blood. He had to die. The One who came from heaven had to go into death, and He went into death that He might communicate life to us; yes, to us, who had forfeited life because we had refused the claim of God, because we had refused the will of God and done our own, He came down into death for us, to die our death; to suffer our judgment, that He might communicate to its that which was the will of God for us, eternal life, a life that sin and death can neither spoil nor touch. And He says, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you,” but the one that eateth the flesh of the Son of Man, and drinketh His blood, hath eternal life.”
It was a hard saying to these Jews that gathered about Him and to some who professed to be His disciples. It is a hard saying today—it was never a harder saying than it is today. You find a great number of His professed disciples here in Edinburgh who find it a hard saying. They don’t like the death of Christ as the way of life and blessing, they would like Christ without a cross; they would like a Gospel without blood. They will not own that death lies upon them because they are sinners, and can only be lifted by the death of the One who never sinned. They are saying what the Jews said to Him when He hung upon the cross—“Come down and we will believe on you”—leave that cross behind; leave the suffering behind; be silent as to sin and its judgment, abandon the cross, we will believe on you. We know that if He had come down from the cross, it would be no use believing on Him. What use would He have been to us if those hands He stretches out to us were not nail-pierced hands? Apart from the cross He would have been our Judge, He could not have said “Come” to any one of us. There is no Gospel without the blood. We come to the cross; we come to His death, we eat the flesh and we drink the blood of the Son of man, and we find life through His death. But what can that mean? Well, that which we eat becomes part of us; we appropriate and assimilate it; it is something that cannot be taken from us. Somebody may break into your house and steal some precious possessions that you have locked up in a very strong safe; that which you prize most and which you are keeping in the greatest security, as you think, may be taken from you but nobody can take from you that which you have eaten; that has become part of yourself, that is in you, and nobody can take it from you. But how do we eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man? It is by faith and in love that we do it. What does the death of Jesus convey to you, dear Christian? Of course, it means that by His precious blood those sins of deepest dye have been washed as white as snow before God; all the guilt of your life-time has been obliterated. Blessed be His name! It means He bore the judgment for you. But why did He do it? He came to do the will of God; He manifested His love of the Father by going to that cross—and at the same time He showed out the love of God to us. But more, “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me.” That was why He did it. Feed upon that—let that become the food of your soul, and you will realize that His claim upon you presses from another point. He has the right to put in His claim because He is God, but He has got the right that love gives, and the greatest verity that God has brought to light in His universe is this, that self-sacrificing love has got an absolute right to the loved object. That is demonstrated in the only instance of Solomon’s wisdom that is given to us—the mother and the child. You remember the story. Two women claimed one living child, one wanted it because it was her own, she loved it, the other wanted it out of envy and spite. “Bring a sword and divide it,” said the king. “No,” cried the true mother, “do not destroy it. I will sacrifice myself, and all my feelings for its sake, I will suffer, but it must live.” “Give it to her,” said the king, “the love that would suffer for it has the right to it.” And all the power of the king’s throne was behind the decision to give effect to it. And this is a great truth for us today. Self-sacrificing love has got an absolute right to the loved object. You see self-sacrificing love in the cross of Christ, and He who sacrificed Himself there has got a right to you and me.
The rich young ruler turned away from Him; all these professed disciples had turned away from Him, they couldn’t bear the hard saying; and then He turned to the twelve and said: “Will ye also go away?” And Peter, speaking for the rest of them says, “Lord to whom shall we go?” Who is there beside Thee?—“Whom have we Lord, but Thee, soul thirst to satisfy?” To whom shall we go? “Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Holy One of God.” They had watched the One in whom God’s will was manifested; the One who was life and health to them; the One whose words were the words of eternal life, and they wanted none but Himself. Happy men!
But if we follow Him as they did to where will He lead us? He said to these people who were turning away front Him, who were cavilling at His words: “What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?” He was rejected here below; the world wouldn’t have Him; and He said, “The Son of Man is going back to the place from whence He came.” He has gone up there; He is not rejected up there; He has been received and enthroned up there, and the question is, beloved Christians, are our hearts in the world that rejected Him, or in heaven that has received Him? Is He our treasure in that brighter sphere? The young ruler refused to have treasure in heaven, because he would not let self go and the world go. We are not going to be as foolish as he was. Our hearts surely have followed Christ where He has gone. He is enthroned in brightest glory; soon everything will be put under His feet; soon every will opposed to God’s will be broken and crushed, but not yet. “Not yet do we see all things put under Him.” This is the “not yet” time, but in the “not yet” time, what have we? A cross here—a treasure there! A cross here—Christ there, and our hearts separated to Him, bound up to Him there. We have not seen Him, but we know Him and love Him, and gladly own His claims over us, surely, as Thomas did. The Lord said to Thomas—Thomas with the materialistic, unbelieving heart; Thomas that would believe nothing he couldn’t feel or taste or see—“Come, Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing.” When Thomas saw the wounds, the wounds that in His love His Lord had suffered for him, he prostrated himself before Him and cried, “My Lord and my God!” Could he ever claim himself for himself again? If we come to that point can we claim ourselves for ourselves? When we come to that point, must there not be this complete surrender this yielding of ourselves to Him. The One who was wounded unto death because of His love to us is our Lord and our God. Here we see His two-fold claim upon us, and we cannot deny Him. If the glory of His Person, and the greatness of His love, dawns upon our souls, we shall be with Thomas, at His blessed feet, saying, “My Lord, and my God!”
What is the end of the road upon which He leads us? “In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself: that where I am there ye may be also.” When we turn our backs upon the earth, heaven is prepared for us. If we follow the Lord Jesus Christ, that is the end of the journey, “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” The normal Christian’s life is to share His rejection here, and that is the place to which He will bring us. He says, don’t think that there in heaven there is no room for you; don’t think there is only room for Me there. There is room for you there. If that had not been so, I would not have asked you to follow Me. If I had not had something infinitely better to offer you than the earth can give you, I would never have said to you, “Follow Me”. I ask you to follow Me because in My Father’s house are many mansion. There is a place there for you, and I love you so much I will not send an angel for you, I will not send a servant, I will come Myself. Nobody shall receive you into that place that I have prepared for you but I Myself. That is the destiny, that is the goal, that is the end to which He is leading; to that place He will bring all who have owned His Divine claim. He says, Follow Me; own My claim; I am all that you need; everything is in Me that is lacking in you—Come! come! follow Me!
May those words, pressing upon us as they do the Divine claim, be in our hearts in such power tonight, that every one of its may respond and say, “Lord, by Thy grace, that is the path for me; I fully own Thy Divine claim over me, and the claim that love that passes knowledge has given Thee!
The Lord grant that it may be so for His name’s sake.
Extracted from “Ministry for the Church of God”