JOY AND LIFE — An Address by James Taylor, Sr.

John 2:1 – 11; John 4:46 – 54

The gospel of John is intended to make Christians into real believers; it does not address itself to those who have not heard. The signs were performed for and in the presence of the disciples. This first one had the effect of promoting faith in them. He “manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him”. It was the first of the signs. “This beginning of signs did Jesus in Cana of Galilee”. It was done in the presence of His disciples, and the result was they believed. I mention this to show the need of the Lord’s people being believers in the sense that John regards believers.

Luke gives his reason for writing his gospel at the outset. John gives his at the end. Luke is concerned that Theophilus might be certain as to what he believed. Many believers are not quite certain, and Theophilus was one of these. Luke says he is writing of “those things which are most surely believed amongst us”, and he undertakes to write with method, so that Theophilus might be certain of the things in which he had been instructed. It was obviously important to be sure, for it is well to build on a sure foundation, and to begin at the bottom, for if the building is insecure it is affected by adverse winds. Is it not the case with many of us that there is not this certainty, and we go on adding to our uncertainty in our half-hearted reception of the truth? It is most important to know if what we have is of God. Paul speaks of those who had “believed from the heart”. The difficulty often is, the gospel is received in such a way that the heart is unaffected by it; the gospel is received by the mind, and the heart is left quite uncontrolled. So there is indefiniteness as to our state, and our relation to God, and consequently as to our relation to the people of God. What is needed is believing from the heart and obeying from the heart.

John does not write to assure people of the certainty of what they believe, but that they “might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”. He has before him the vastness of the ministry of Christ, and he has the definite end in view in writing, that those to whom he wrote should get a sense in their souls of what is found in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God: “and that believing ye might have life through his name”. The believer has faith, and as having that, has life in the name of the Lord Jesus. John has this definite end before him that the believer should come to the full and conscious knowledge of these things. Half knowledge is a poor thing. These two signs were performed in the same place, and are connected by the Spirit. “So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine”. The first brings in joy, and the second has reference to life. The one is the counterpart of the other, joy and life in the soul of the believer.

The Lord says to His mother, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? My hour is not yet come”. She represents the natural claim, and He had nothing to say to that at this time, though He would take it up at the right moment. His hour had not come then, nor has it come yet, but the Lord says in effect, ‘I will bring it in now, in a way’, only His conditions must be observed. Nature can have no claim, and His will must be done. The gain of a coming day is available now for faith, but on the ground of complying with His requirements; His mother recognises this when she says to the servants: “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it”. That is a word for your soul and mine, and millennial blessings are available for us on everything being regulated by His word.

The six waterpots were just there. The Lord takes up what is available. You are available tonight. One looks round at the crowds in this vast city, and one feels depressed at the thought of how few are available. In Athens Paul’s spirit was “painfully excited in him” at seeing the disregard of God and the idolatry there, but we must be careful not to be depressed to our damage. There are those here and there whose hearts God touches, who think seriously of their soul’s welfare. “There were set there six waterpots of stone”. There they are. They had been in relation to the Jews’ system of purifying, but never mind, the Lord can take them up. You are here tonight, and the Lord would let the water of purification, the light of the death of Christ, into your soul. God has had to say at the cross of Christ, to all the sin your heart is privy to. He has dealt with sins and also with sin righteously in His death. Let the light of it into your soul now. Jesus said, “Fill the water-pots with water”. Christ would have us filled. Have you been half and half about things? Half-way measures are baneful in result. God looks for wholeheartedness. He opened Lydia’s heart so that she attended to the things spoken by Paul, and one can understand how he would pour the light into that opened heart. He would tell of the love of God, of the death of Christ, of the blood and of the water. The heart is first purified by faith and then filled. The Lord would fill every soul here. “To the brim” the waterpots were filled. One would long so to be filled with the light of the love of Christ and the death of Christ that there is room for nothing else in these hearts of ours.

As the vessels are filled the Lord says: “Draw out now and bear to the governor of the feast”. The water of purification becomes the wine of joy. That which cleanses you, the death of Christ, becomes effective, and joy is the result. The wine was taken to the one in charge of the feast, and when he had tasted it he said to the bridegroom: “thou hast kept the good wine to the last”. That will be the wine of joy for earth; it is not strictly Christianity, but we can get the millennial blessing now, for we have that which sustains the joy, the Holy Spirit. The poverty of the principles of the world is not in question either in this case or that of the nobleman, yet there is a deficiency in both which the Lord comes in and meets as none but He can.

We now come to the nobleman. He does not represent a poor man in this world, but few of us know the sorrow that wealth brings in its train. They are “pierced through with many sorrows” who seek after it. The young ruler who was “very rich” went away sorrowful, we read, for his wealth kept him from following the Lord. So here this nobleman, though rich, was in dire distress, but he had faith. However, that only affected him, but the Lord had it before Him to capture his whole house. Paul speaks of the “house of Stephanas”, it was the first-fruits of Achaia to the Lord. The Lord is after your house, and it may be that in seeking your house, He lays your son low. Means cannot keep away fever and death, and the Lord touches the nobleman’s house through his son. The man himself speaks of his “child”, but the Lord says he is of more value than you think, he is a “son”. “Go thy way, thy son liveth”. What a message from the lips of Christ to a sorrowing father. The gospel meets the household difficulty, it is peace and joy to you and it will be that for your house, for Christ has nothing less than that in view.

Luke is the great writer as to the households of believers. Jairus had a daughter, and when she died he went to Jesus and “besought him that he would come into his house”. This man says, “Come down and heal”. He had not light as to the house, but Jairus recognised that it is a household affair and the cure must come household-wise. If the Lord has gained you He means it to be a household matter. But when He comes in He shows that the conditions for help must be spiritual. He puts out those that mocked Him, for that element could have no place there, and “suffered no man to go in save Peter and James and John, and the father and mother of the maiden”. He does not call her by name, but says, “Maid, arise”, because the point was she belonged to that father and mother, and He says to them, “Give her to eat”. They would not allow the scoffers in again, and that father would not supply food that would damage her constitution. If the house is for Christ we must not give what would vitiate the taste. He could trust that father and mother.

The nobleman does not yet recognise Him in that way. The Lord does not go down with him, but says: “Go thy way, thy son liveth”. What a word for that man as he went his way! The Lord did not go with him, for He would induce faith in his heart, and the man went back a man of faith as to himself, not yet his house, but enough for the time. More would come. Then the servants met him, they were interested, and they remembered the hour, and the man remembered the hour too. Do you? Sometimes God has to remember for us. “I remember for thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thy espousals”, but it is for us to remember too. The man did. There should be no half-heartedness or indefiniteness, and Christians should know the history of their souls.

The epistle of John is like the sailor’s dead reckoning. You find your way by soundings. John gives evidences of life. One is: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren”. Do you? If so you will not leave them.

The effect of remembering the hour, and putting things together for this man was that he believed and his whole house. Do we do this? Every day we should have a daily history and be occupied with what the Lord is doing; and the effect would be that we should be confirmed, and the blessing would spread.

So these are the two sides. First, the heart is satisfied with the wine of joy, and you have God with you in your circumstances; then when you come to life you are taken out of your natural surroundings and taken into a sphere where all is spiritual and dominated by Christ.

London

May 1920

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