Romans 14: 17.—For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
In this text we have the earthly revelation of the work of the Trinity. The Kingdom of God is righteousness; that represents the work of the Father. The foundations of His throne are justice and judgment. Then comes the work of the Son: He is our peace, our Shiloh, our rest. The Kingdom of God is peace; not only the peace of pardon for the past, but the peace of perfect assurance as to the future. Not only the work of atonement is finished, but the work of sanctification is finished in Christ, and I may receive and enjoy what is prepared for me. The new man has been created, and I may in Him live out my life; if a kingdom is established in righteousness, if the rule is perfect, there can be perfect rest. If there be peace, no war from without, and no civil dissension within, a nation can be happy and prosperous. And so there comes here, after righteousness and peace, the joy, the blessed happiness in which a man can live; “The Kingdom of God is righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” May we regard this joy of the Holy Ghost, not only as a beautiful thing to admire, not only as a thing to have beautiful thoughts about, but as a blessing that we are going to claim.
We often see a fruiterer's or confectioner's shop, with beautiful fruit or cake temptingly displayed in the window. There is a great pane of plate glass before it, and the hungry little boys stand there and look, and long, but they cannot reach it. If you were to say to one, “Now, little boy, take that fruit,” he would look at you in surprise. He has learned that there is something between. If he had never known of glass he might attempt it. The plate glass is sometimes so clear that even a grown man might for a moment be deceived and stretch out his hand. But he soon finds there is something invisible between him and the fruit. This represents exactly the life of many Christians; they see, but they cannot take. And what now is this invisible pane of plate glass, that hinders my taking the beautiful things I see? It is nothing but the self-life; I see divine things but cannot reach them, the self-life is the invisible plate glass. We are willing, we are working, we are striving, and yet we are holding back something; we are afraid to give up everything to God. We do not know what the consequences may be. We have not yet comprehended that God and Christ Jesus are worth everything. Whatever is told us of the blessed life of peace and joy, we say, “Praise God; God's Word is true; I believe the Word;” and yet, day by day, we stand back. When some one says, “Take it,” we say, “I can't take it; there is something between.” Would we were willing to give up the self-life; would we had the courage to give up to-day, and let the joy of the Holy Ghost be our religion. That is the religion God has prepared for us; that is the religion we can claim; not only righteousness, not only peace, but the joy of the Holy Ghost. That is the Kingdom of God.
What is this joy? First of all, it is the joy of the presence of Jesus. We are often inclined to speak most of two other things, the power for sanctification, and the power for service. But I find there is a thing more important than either of those two, and that is that the Holy Ghost came from Heaven to be the abiding presence of Christ in His disciples, in the Church, and in the heart of every believer. The Lord Jesus was going away, and His disciples were very sad; their hearts was sorrowful; but He said to them, “I will come back again, and I will come to you. Your hearts shall rejoice, and your joy no man shall take from you.” What took place with them, may take place with us too. The Holy Spirit is given to make the presence of Jesus an abiding reality, a continual experience. And what was that joy that no man could ever touch? It was the joy of Pentecost. And what was Pentecost? The coming of the Lord Jesus in the Holy Ghost to dwell with His disciples. While Jesus was with His disciples on earth, He could not get into their hearts in the right way. They loved Him, but they could not take in His teaching, they could not partake of His disposition, and they could not receive His very spirit into their being. But when He had ascended to Heaven, He came back in the Spirit to dwell in their hearts. It is this alone that will help us to go, the minister to his congregation with its difficulties, the business man to his counter, the mother to her large family with its care, the worker to her Bible class. It is this only that will help us to feel, “I can conquer, I can live in the rest of God.” Why? “Because I have the almighty Jesus with me every day.” With God's people, there seems to be one hindrance, they do not know their Saviour. They do not realize that this blessed Christ is an ever present, all-pervading, in-dwelling Christ, who wants to take charge of their entire lives. They do not know, they do not believe that He is an Almighty Christ, and ready in the midst of any difficulties and any circumstances to be their keeper and their God. This is absolutely true. Many Christians are asked as to how one may have the joy unspeakable, the joy that nothing can take away, the joy of the friendship and nearness and love of Jesus filling his heart. We complain that the rush of competition is so terrible that we can not get time for private prayer. Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, if He comes to you as a brother and a friend and an abiding guest, can give your heart the joy of the Holy Ghost, so that business will take its right place under your feet. Your heart is too holy to have it filled with business; let the business be in the head and under the feet, but let Christ have the whole heart, and He will keep the whole life. Our glorious, exalted, almighty, ever present Christ! why is it that you and I can not trust Him fully, perfectly to do His work? Shall we not say before God that we do trust Him, that we will trust Christ to be to us every moment all that we can desire? On the Cross of Calvary Christ was all alone, and you believe He did a perfect and a blessed work; and Christ in Heaven is all alone, as high priest and intercessor, and you trust Him for His work there. But, praise God! it is equally true, Christ in the heart is able all alone to keep it all the days. May it please God to reveal to His children the nearness of Christ standing and knocking at the door of every heart, ready to come in and rest forever there and to lead the soul into His rest.
We all know what the power of joy is; we know there is nothing so attractive as joy, there is nothing can help a man to bear and endure so much as joy; we know that the Lord Jesus Himself for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross. One is not living aright if he is living a sighing, trembling, doubting life. Come to-day and believe the joy of the Holy Ghost is meant for you. Does not the Scripture say, “Whom not having seen we love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Do you not believe that this blessed, adorable, inconceivably beautiful Son of God, the delight of the Father,—do you not believe that this Son of God could fill your heart with delight day and night, if He were always present? And do you not believe that He loves you more than a bridegroom loves his bride? Do you not believe that, having bought you with His blood, Jesus is longing for you? He needs you to satisfy His heart of love. Begin to believe with your whole heart, “The joy of the Holy Ghost is my portion,” for the Holy Ghost secures to me without interruption the presence and the love of Jesus.
But secondly, there is the joy of deliverance from sin. The Holy Ghost comes to sanctify us. Christ is our sanctification, and the Holy Ghost comes to communicate Him to us, to work out all that is in Christ and to reproduce it in us. Let us remember that in the sight of God there is something more than work. There is Christlikeness—the likeness and the life of Christ in us. That is what God wants; that will fit us for work. God asks not that Christ should live in us as separate persons; temples full of filthy, impure, foul creatures, with Christ hidden away somewhere there,—that is not the intention of God, but He wants Christ so formed in us that we are one with Christ, and that in our thinking, feeling and living, the image of His blessed Son is manifest before Him. The Holy Spirit is given to sanctify us. My brother, are you willing to be sanctified from every sin, be that sin great or small? I am not asking, do you feel that you have the power to conquer it? I am not even asking, do you feel the power to cast it out? It may be that you feel no power; that won't hinder if you are willing. I can not cast out sin, but I can get the Almighty Christ by the Holy Spirit to do it, and it is my work to say to Christ, “There is the sin, there is the evil thing, I lay it at Thy feet, I cast it there, I cast it into Thy very bosom. Lord, I am ready to cut off the right hand, anything, only deliver me from it.” Then Christ will cast out the evil spirit and give deliverance. The Spirit of God is a holy spirit and His work is to make free from the power of sin and death. And if you want to live in the joy of the Holy Ghost, the question comes: “Are you willing to surrender everything that is sinful, even what appears good,—but has the stain of sin on it?” You may be involved in relationships that make your life very difficult. A pastor with his people maybe brought into very difficult relationships; or a business man with his partner or those with whom he has to associate, may be in an exceedingly trying position. But is not the blessed Lamb of God worth it all? What is the Christ worth to you? The question was once asked the disciples, “What think ye of Christ?” I ask, “What is Christ worth to you?” And I beseech you, whatever prospective difficulties there may be, and whatever perplexities surround you, take the whole world to-day and cast it at His feet. To have Him is worth any difficulty; to have Him will be the solution of every difficulty. There are not only such external, manifest difficulties and perplexities, there are a thousand little things that come in our life and that often disturb us, temptations to unloving feelings, and sharp words, and hasty judgments. Oh, come, and believe that the Holy Spirit, the sanctifier, can come in and rule, and give grace to pass through all without sinning, and you shall know what the joy of the Holy Ghost is. Our body, we read in 1st Corinthians, is the temple of the Holy Ghost. It is to be holy in things like eating and drinking. How often a Christian comes to the consciousness that he takes or seeks too much enjoyment in that eating, eating for pleasure, with no self-denial or self-sacrifice in his feeding the body! How often we tempt one another to eat, and how often the believer forgets that this body is the very secret temple of the Holy Ghost and that every mouthful we eat and drink must be for the glory of God in such a way as to be perfectly well pleasing to Him! Beloved, I bring you a message: There is access for you into the rest of God, and the Holy Spirit is given to bring you in, and the Holy Spirit will fill your heart with the unutterable joy of Christ's presence; and with the joy of deliverance from sin, of victory over sin; the unutterable joy of knowing that you are doing God's will and are pleasing in His sight; the unutterable joy of knowing that He is sanctifying and keeping the temple for Christ to dwell in. Believers, the joy of the Holy Ghost, the joy of that holiness of God, is His blessedness, His purity, His perfection, that nothing can mar or stain or disturb. The Holy Ghost waits to bring and to manifest it in our lives. He wants to come so into our hearts that we shall live, as Holy Ghost men, the sanctified life, with the sanctifying power of Jesus running through our whole beings.
My third thought is: the joy of the Holy Ghost is the joy of the love of the saints. The Holy Ghost was not given to any man on the day of Pentecost separate from the others; He came and filled the whole company. We know how much division and separation and pride there had been among them, but on that day the Holy Ghost so filled their hearts that we find it was afterward said: “Behold how these men love one another.” There was a love in the primitive church that the very heathen noticed, and could not understand. Why was that? The Holy Spirit is the bond of union between the Father and Son; and that bond is love. The Holy Spirit is just the love of God come to dwell in the heart. When He dwells with me and my brother we learn to love each other. Though I be unloving naturally, and though I have very little grace, if the heart of my brother is full of the Holy Spirit he loves me through it all. You know love is a wonderful thing. As long as a man tries to love it is not real love, but when real love comes, the more opposition it meets the more it triumphs, for the more it can exercise itself and perfect itself, the more it rejoices. Take a mother with a son dishonoring her. How her love follows him! When she sees that he has fallen deeper than ever before, how the dear mother heart only loves him the more intensely through all the wretchedness! Does not the Scripture say, “If He gave His life for us, we are bound to give our life for the brethren?” The Holy Spirit comes as a spirit of love, and if you want to know the joy of the Holy Ghost, and want Him to lead you into the rest of God and keep you there, beware above everything on earth or in hell of being unloving. One sharp word to your brother or sister brings a cloud upon you without your knowing it. People are so accustomed to talk just as they like about each other that they say sharp and unkind and unloving things, and when a cloud comes in consequence they cannot understand it. If there is one thing that grieves God, if there is one thing that hinders the Spirit—the fruit of the Spirit is love—it is the want of lovingness. If you want to live in the joy of the Holy Ghost make your covenant with God. “But,” you say, “there is a Christian man who makes me so impatient; he does trouble me and vex me so with his stupidity. And there are those worldly men; how they have tempted me in times past and done me harm! And there is that business man who is trying to ruin me.” Take them all, and your own wife and children and every one around you and say, “I understand it, love is rest, and rest is love. God resteth in His love. Love is rest and rest is love, and where there is no love the rest must be disturbed.” And let us say to-day, “I see what the joy is; it is the joy of always loving, it is the joy of losing my own life in love to others.” In connection with humility, some one asks, “How about that text, 'In honor preferring one another?'“ When a soul comes into perfect humility before God it becomes nothing, and God becomes all in all. I am nothing. There is no self to be affronted; I have said before God: “I am nothing; it is only Thy life and light that shines. The honor is Thine, and nothing may touch me but what is against the glory of my God.”
Beloved, are you living in the joy of the Holy Ghost? Come and accept a blessing and give yourself up to live a life of humility in which you are nothing, and a life of love like Christ's in which you only live for your fellow-men, for the kingdom of God is the joy of the Holy Ghost.
My last thought is that the joy of the Holy Ghost is the joy of working for God. The joy of the presence of Jesus, the joy of deliverance from sin, the joy of love for the brethren, and then the joy of working for God. Some of us have at times felt what an incomprehensible thing it is that the everlasting God should work through us; and we have said, “Lord, what is this, that Thou the Almighty One dost work in me and through me, a vile worm by nature?” It is a mystery that passeth knowledge, and yet it is so true. The joy of the Holy Ghost comes when a man gives himself up to the Christlike work of carrying the love of God to men. Let us seek the perishing, let us live and die for souls, let us live and die that our fellow-men may be reclaimed and brought back to their God. There is no joy like hearing the joy-song of a new-born soul. But yes, there is another joy that may be as deep. Even if God does not give me the blessing of hearing the newborn soul sing its song, I may have the joy, the sympathy with Jesus in His rejected life, and the assurance that the Father looks with good pleasure on me. When I think of the thousands of believers in the Christian world and then think of the heathen world, the cry comes up in my heart: “What are we doing?” Ah, we need to be crying to God day and night, “Lord God, wake us up. Lord God, let the Holy Spirit burn within us.” Are we the true successors of Jesus Christ? Are we indeed the followers and successors of Christ who went all the way to Calvary to give His blood for men? Do let us remember the joy of the Holy Ghost is the joy of working for God in Christ. I believe that God has new ways and new leadings and new power for His people, if they will only wait on Him. But what most of us do is this: we thank God for all He has given, we look at all the ways of working we have, and we say that we will try to do our work better. But oh, if we had a sense of the need, if we had any sense, by the vision of the Holy Ghost, of the state of the millions around us, I am sure we would fall on our faces before God and say, “God help me to something new. Oh that every fiber of my being may be taken possession of for this great work with God!” The great need is that all Christians should consecrate themselves wholly to God for His work. May God help us to know what is the joy of the Holy Ghost.
Concluding, I ask again: “Do you believe that it is possible for the Lord Jesus, our Shiloh, of whom Jacob prophesied, our Joshua, our glorious King and High Priest,—do you believe it is possible for Christ Jesus to bring you to-day into the rest of God?” Remember that word in Hebrews, “Even as the Holy Ghost saith, to-day.” To-day, summon up courage and take up your ministry, and take up your business, and take up your surroundings, and take up your natural temperament, and take up your home, and take up your life for the days to come upon earth, and say, “I do not understand it, I know not what will come, but one thing I know, I do absolutely give everything into the hands of the crucified Lamb of God; He shall have me in my entirety.” And oh, remember, beloved, that Christ will be to you more than you can think or understand, more than you can ask or desire.
Come, let us cast ourselves into those blessed, loving arms, and let us believe even now that our Joshua leads us into the rest of God, the rest in which we are saved from self-care and self-seeking and self-trusting and self-loving, the rest in which we do not think of ourselves, but where He who is almighty and omnipresent is always going to be with us and is always going to work within us. And let us when we have done that, claim the promise, that as we have sought first the kingdom and God's righteousness, all things shall be added unto us. Beloved, the kingdom of God is within you, and it is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Come, let us claim it even now in simple, childlike, humble faith.