The first meeting of a Convention in a new place is often a difficult one. The most of us are strangers to each other. An atmosphere of prayer and love has hardly yet been created. We do not know whether all understand the object of our meeting. But I am sure we may look to our Father in heaven to melt our hearts into one. We can ask Him by His Holy Spirit to make us of one heart and one mind in seeking His glory, in trusting His mighty power, and in looking to Him alone for a blessing.
Let us all from the very commencement of our Convention look to God, not only for what each one needs for himself, but as members of one body, with the fervent prayer that there may be a blessing for all. Let us unite ourselves before God as a company of His own dear children, full of love to each other, and with the confident assurance that He will bless us. Our Father, do Thou melt our hearts into one by Thy Holy Spirit. Thou knowest the need of each one; let Thy word meet it. Give Thy servants grace so to speak that Thy children may know what their God has for them, and what they may expect Him to do for them.
The words from which I wish to speak to-night you will find in Mark x. 15: “Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”
Listen again: “Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” We need at the opening of our Convention to look forward to all that we are going to speak and to hear during the coming days, and to try and take our right place before God. I think this word of the Lord Jesus will guide us exactly where we ought to be.
It will tell us what God asks of us if we are even now to enter His Kingdom and live in it: that each of us receive it into our hearts as a little child. These are the two things we need to know, to enter into the enjoyment of a full salvation. With these two things all our Convention teaching will be occupied: the wonderful blessing God has for us, the wonderful way in which we are to become possessors of it.
My text has...
FOUR SIMPLE EXPRESSIONS
that we need to understand if we are to enter into its meaning and power. We must ask: 1. What is the Kingdom of God? 2. What is it to enter the Kingdom? 3. What to receive the Kingdom? 4. What to receive the Kingdom as a little child? First: What is the Kingdom of God? You know how both John the Baptist preached that the Kingdom of God or of heaven had come nigh. During the Old Testament times it had been spoken of, and promised, and hoped for, but it had not come.
During the life of Christ on earth there were mighty tokens of its coming and its nearness, but it had not yet come in power. What it would be Christ foretold when He once said, “the Kingdom of God is within you;” and another time, “There be some standing here who shall not see death, till they see the Kingdom of God come in power.” On the day of Pentecost that word was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit brought down out of heaven the Kingdom of God into the hearts of the disciples, and they went forth and preached the Gospel of the Kingdom not as at hand or coming, but as come.
It is not difficult now to answer the question...
WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD?
It is that spiritual state in which the life of God and of heaven is made accessible to men, and they enter into its enjoyment here on earth. If we ask what its marks are we find the answer in the wondrous change we see in the life of the disciples. The mark of a kingdom is the presence of the king. With the Holy Spirit Christ came down to be with His disciples as really, and more nearly, than when He was with them in the flesh. The abiding nearness and fellowship of Christ, and in Him of God the Father, is the very central blessing of the Kingdom. This experience was what the Holy Spirit at Pentecost made real. The disciples had their Lord with them as consciously as the angels in heaven. His presence made heaven all around and in them. A believer to whom a full entrance into the Kingdom is given, has the Presence The mark of the kingdom is the rule of the king. We read, “His Kingdom ruleth over all.”
Before Pentecost the disciples could not love or be humble, could not trust or be bold. But when the kingdom came the dominion of God prevailed, God’s Presence through the Holy Spirit gained the victory, sin was overcome, and the will of God done in them to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as in heaven,” He promised this. As the Kingdom came down with the Holy Ghost the promise was fulfilled. And our entering into the kingdom means our being brought into a life in which God rules over all, His will is truly and joyfully done, and all the blessedness that reigns in heaven finds its counterpart here below. As it is written, “The Kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
The mark of a kingdom is power. “The Kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” Just think of the work these simple fishermen dared to undertake, and were able to accomplish. Think of the weapon with which they had to do their work – the despised Gospel of the crucified Nazarene. Think of all that God wrought through them, and see how the coming of the Kingdom brought a new power from heaven by which feeble men were made mighty through God, and the slaves of Satan were made God’s holy children.
Believers! it is this Kingdom of God come from heaven we preach. We come to tell you that a life in the presence and the will and the power of God, has been opened up, that men have been brought to enter into it and live in it, and that you too can enter in. There are some of you who are confessing the feebleness of your Christian life, and the failure of all your efforts to make it better. You have believed in Jesus as your Saviour, but of an entrance into the Kingdom as it came in power you know nothing.
I beseech you begin at once to-night and believe that there is such a life in the kingdom here on earth. Believe that Christ’s death wrought such a wonderful and complete redemption, and that the coming down of the Holy Spirit, nothing else but the glorified Christ coming in the Spirit, brought down the heavenly life in such reality, that, even as the first disciples, we can be endued with power on high. If you will believe that, if you hold fast, there is a kingdom of heaven on earth, your desire will be stirred to become partakers of its blessedness, and as we point out the way how, your hope will begin to see that this life is even for you too.
And you will...
WHAT IS IT TO ENTER THE KINGDOM?
This is our second question. You know the meaning of the word enter. It is most commonly used in Scripture of the entrance of the children of Israel into the land of promise, and of the believer’s entrance by faith into the rest of God. Entrance: The word simply means coming into full possession or enjoyment. And it is just this Christ means and you long for with regard to the Kingdom, when He speaks here of entering it.
The word does not refer to heaven, and our entering that when we die. It speaks of the kingdom of heaven come to earth, and our entering into it in power, as the disciples did at Pentecost. There are many Christians who are content with a heaven after death. The promise of living in a kingdom of heaven here on earth has not attraction, and wakens no response. They cannot understand what we mean. But there are hearts in whom the longing has been wakened for something better, and who would fain know what it is to enter the Kingdom.
Entrance means coming into full possession. Just think of the blessings of the Kingdom we mentioned. God’s manifested presence with us without ceasing; God’s blessed rule and dominion over us established, so that His heavenly will is done in us and by us; God’s mighty power descending upon us, so that through us Christ can do His word of saving souls. Into a life in which these blessings are your daily experience, you can enter even now.
That life has been prepared for you, and is promised; it is waiting for you. You can enter even now by faith. As an army conquers and enters a city, so many a one struggles and fights and seeks to take the Kingdom by violence. And he fails. We can only enter by faith. As Joshua brought Israel into the land of promise, and Jericho fell without a blow being struck, our Lord Jesus waits to bring us into the good land. It was He who from heaven gave the disciples their abundant entrance into the Kingdom; it is He who still by His Holy Spirit will lead each one of us in. By faith in Him He brings us in.
You want to know what this faith is, and how it is to act. Listen to what our Lord tells us. Our third question was...
WHAT IS IT TO RECEIVE THE KINGDOM?
What is the difference between the two expressions our Lord uses: entering the Kingdom and receiving the Kingdom? You see He makes the latter, receiving, the condition of the former, entering in. The one is active: I enter in and take possession. The other is passive: I receive. The words give expression to the great truth that before I can enter the Kingdom, it must first enter into me.
Before I can possess its privileges and powers, it must first possess me, with all my powers and being. I must, in subjection and surrender, in poverty and emptiness, receive the Kingdom into my heart before I am fit to be entrusted with all the power and glory it offers me. What is dark and evil within must first be cast out; what is of God must fill my being; and which is born of God alone, can inherit the Kingdom and its heavenly life. There must be a heavenly nature before there can be a heavenly state.
Receive the Kingdom: the word is very simple. It implies two things: there is one who gives, and another who accepts. How many there are who have heard of the blessed life in the Kingdom, and the wonderful joy it gives, and who have never thought that it must be received from the living God Himself.
What we need is to be brought to such consciousness of our utter ignorance and impotence, that we feel we cannot grasp or apprehend this wonderful salvation that is offered, but that we are to come into contact with the Father in heaven, as a heavenly bestowal, receive from Him the Kingdom in power. And that not as something that we have to persuade Him to give us, but as the child’s portion that actually belongs to us, and that He yearns to see us enjoy. It is as we believe this, and look up to the everlasting God, infinitely ready and able to give the Kingdom in its power into our very heart, that our hearts will take courage to expect that the Kingdom with its blessings can, indeed, enter into us.
Then our accepting will become so simple. When we see the God who has promised, in His infinite love, just as the sun seeks to enter with its light and life into every little flower and every blade of grass, longing to enter into us, and be all that as God He can be, we shall understand how our place is simply to rest in what He will do, to claim His great gift of the Spirit who brings the Kingdom into us, and to wait in patient dependence for Him to do His mighty work. Our position day by day will be as of those who, having accepted, now count upon God to reveal and work in us all that He has for us.
You may be inclined to ask, If the receiving be so simple, how is it that it is still so difficult, and that so few really find what they seek? The answer is, the whole thing is so simple, but we are not simple. The simplicity of the thing is its difficulty, because we have lost our simplicity. It is this Jesus teaches us in the words He adds, and which we must still speak of.
WHAT IS IT TO RECEIVE THE KINGDOM AS A LITTLE CHILD?
Have we any illustration of this nature? Yes. How did the Prince of Wales become heir to the throne of England? By his birth as a little child he received the kingdom. He was born to it. And so we must be born by the Holy Spirit into that disposition of heart or childlike simplicity which will receive the Kingdom as a little child. When a little child receives a kingdom, it does so as a feeble, helpless little thing. As it grows up and hears of what is coming to it, does so in simple trustfulness and gladness. Even so Jesus calls us to become little children and as such receive the Kingdom.
Oh! how hard it is for men and women, with all their will and their strength and their wisdom, will all the power of self and the old man, to become as little children. It is impossible. And yet without this we cannot enter the Kingdom and its heavenly life. We can know about the Kingdom, we may taste some of its powers, we may work for it and often rejoice in it – but we cannot enter in fully and entirely, until we become as a little child. And with men this is impossible. But with God all things are possible.
There are some things we can do towards it. We can yield to the teaching of God’s Spirit when He convinces us of our pride and self-confidence. We can confess our self-will and self-effort. We can pray and long and strive after the childlike spirit. We can go as far as Peter and the disciples did before Pentecost. But the little-child nature that enters into the Kingdom, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God’s Son, who cries Abba, Father, the Spirit that claims and expects and receives all from God alone, alone can give. He is within you, as the Spirit of Christ, to work this; He gives the grace to become a little child, and so He fits the heart for receiving from heaven His fulness, as He brings the Kingdom in heavenly power.
How to become a little child? How to lose all our strength and wisdom, our will and life, and be as little new-born children? Oh that I knew the way hither, you cry. Look to Jesus! As a babe in Bethlehem, He was born heir to the Kingdom of David. He grew up to manhood, and then giving up His will in Gethsemane when He cried Abba, Father, He gave up His life, and was laid in the dark grave in the helplessness of death.
Thence He arose, as the first-begotten of the dead, born again out of the dead to the Throne of Glory. In the feebleness of the grave He gained His throne. We need to die with Christ – that is the way to get delivered from the old man and self, the way to receive the heavenly life as a little child, and so to enter the Kingdom. The feebleness of Bethlehem and the manger, of Calvary and the grave, was Christ’s way to enter the Kingdom – for us there is no other way.
As we seek to humble ourselves and renounce all wish and all hope of being or doing good ourselves, as we yield all our human ability and energy to the death in the confession that is nothing but sinful and worthy of death, God’s Spirit will make the power of Christ’s death to sin work in us, we shall die with Him, and with Him be raised in newness of life. And the new life will be the little child that receives the Kingdom.
The four thoughts Christ’s words have suggested indicate some of the truths that will occupy us during the coming days of the Convention. We are going to-morrow to speak of the needs of the Church, and the next day of what God is willing to do for His people. The speakers will probably tell us how little we see the Kingdom of God come in power among God’s children.
Let us begin this evening by each of us asking himself – How is it with me? Am I proving, in my own experience and to others, that it has come, and that a child of God can enter in and live in all the blessedness of its heavenly life? Have I by the Holy Spirit so received the Kingdom into my heart, that the presence and power of God manifested in me, and Himself working out His will in me and through me, are indeed the strength and joy of my religion? Let nothing less than the possession of this satisfy us, let this be our one desire with this Convention.
To this end let us hold fast two things. The one, the unspeakable blessedness, the divine possibility, the absolute certainty of the Kingdom of God in power being the portion of God’s people. Our heart is meant to be the very dwelling of God living in it. The Holy Spirit is meant so to be in us and through us that all the action of the heart, all that is done by it, is to be done by the Holy Spirit inspiring it. The Kingdom of Heaven has come to earth and can be set up within us in such power, that the presence and the will and the power of God shall be our life and joy.
It is more than the mind can grasp; let us believe it. Our wonder-working God will make it true. The other thing is this. Let us believe that all that is needed to be in full possession of these blessings is what the Holy Spirit, who is already in us, will work. He will make us as little children before God. He will enable us as such to receive the Kingdom from the Father, He will lead us and bring us in, so that we enter into the Kingdom and the heavenly life it gives.
Shall we not to-night at once say: Lord! Nothing less than this can satisfy me. I want to live my life full in thy Kingdom. I yield myself, I yield self with all its life to thee. In the faith of the Holy Spirit I say: Here I am as a little child; Father, in the gift of Thy Spirit in Pentecostal power, let me receive this Kingdom as a little child.