Lo, I Am With You Alway

12-disciples

By John Thiel, mp3

While Jesus was physically with the little flock of His disciples, 2,000 years ago, He made a promise.

John 14:18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20 At that day ye shall know that I [am] in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. … 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

I will not leave you comfortless; I will come and make my abode with you.” This includes the Holy Spirit and the Father. Was Jesus desiring that His disciples would be comforted? He made those words very clear in Matthew 28. As He gave them their commission, He concluded in verse 20:

Matthew 28:20 …and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.

Those words are very valuable for you and me. “I am with you even unto the end of the world.” With who? With the company of believers that met up with that company that He was speaking to then; the true Christian that followed Jesus with all his heart. Your and my hope lies in one reality and one alone – Emmanuel, God with us.

“Emmanuel, God with us,” this means everything to us. What a broad foundation does it lay for our faith. What a hope big with immortality does it place before the believing soul. God with us in Christ Jesus to accompany us every step of the journey to heaven. The Holy Spirit with us as a comforter, a guide in our perplexities, to soothe our sorrows, and shield us in temptation. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” {ML 290.2}

It is our absolute need that He has come to supply, the need we have of someone with us. Don’t you? Do you like being alone? When you are alone in perplexity, do you make the right decisions? How frequently we act on impulse, and we need someone beside us constantly to quench our impulsive spirit, to tell us, No, no, this is the way; walk ye in it. It is an absolute necessity to have Jesus constantly with us.

A true Christian, when he has a sense of the absence of Jesus, begins to feel completely devastated. His soul is filled with horror, What shall I do, where shall I go? How shall I relate with myself? I look for Jesus and I haven’t got him; and there is an absolute emptiness in the soul. There are many people who live in that emptiness, and they are constantly trying to supply the lack of that satisfaction by their own human pridey way of handling things. You see lots of people in the world today who give you that strong front appearance. It comes from a lack of Jesus in the heart. They have to keep a good face. People who lose sight of Jesus after they have actually walked with Him, find it a painstaking effort to find Him again.

This is what happened to Mary and Joseph when they lost sight of their son Jesus, as they made their way home from the festivities in Jerusalem. This is for us to contemplate, the extremity of our experience when we lose sight of Jesus, and how hard it is to find Him again.

If Joseph and Mary had stayed their minds upon God by meditation and prayer, they would have realized the sacredness of their trust, and would not have lost sight of Jesus. By one day’s neglect they lost the Saviour; but it cost them three days of anxious search to find Him. So with us; by idle talk, evilspeaking, or neglect of prayer, we may in one day lose the Saviour’s presence, and it may take many days of sorrowful search to find Him, and regain the peace that we have lost. {DA 83.1}

Not only do we see in this meditation that it takes a hard effort to reconnect with the conscious presence of Jesus, but we also see what it is that causes us to lose sight of Him. What was it with Mary and Joseph? By lack of prayer and meditation; and us: by idle talk, evilspeaking, or neglect of prayer, we may in one day lose the Saviour.

In our association with one another, we should take heed lest we forget Jesus, and pass along unmindful that He is not with us. When we become absorbed in worldly things so that we have no thought for Him in whom our hope of eternal life is centered, we separate ourselves from Jesus and from the heavenly angels. {DA 83.2}

We separate ourselves from Jesus.

These holy beings cannot remain where the Saviour’s presence is not desired, and His absence is not marked. This is why discouragement so often exists among the professed followers of Christ. {Ibid.}

What do we see here? The holy beings, the angels, cannot remain where the Saviour’s presence is not desired, or where His absence is not marked. We need heavenly companionship to survive spiritually. And unless we have a deep desire to have Jesus in our presence, unless we notice His absence the moment He is not there, the angels fall away with sad looks. That is why discouragement often exists among the professed followers of Christ.

Many attend religious services, and are refreshed and comforted by the word of God; but through neglect of meditation, watchfulness, and prayer, they lose the blessing, and find themselves more destitute than before they received it. {DA 83.3}

Have you experienced that before? It was a real spiritual high, you were in the presence of God, you heard His words being proclaimed and it ravished your heart. But then, you leave the meeting and the next minute there are discussions and talks that have nothing to do with what ravished your heart. Evilspeaking comes in, and negativities come in, and you feel worse for the loss of that high that you had than if you didn’t have it in the first place.

Often they feel that God has dealt hardly with them. They do not see that the fault is their own. By separating themselves from Jesus, they have shut away the light of His presence. {DA 83.3}

When Jesus says, I am with you always, the fact is that His presence is there, but humanity shuts away His presence by their own manner of relating to His presence. Have you ever walked beside someone and you didn’t know he was there? Your mind is so absorbed with your own problems and difficulties that you don’t even know what is going on around you, and yet that person is there? That is what you and I can do with Jesus. For a church of people who are gathering together to worship Him, if Jesus is not there recognised by them, desired for His presence, or if they are unconscious of His absence, then that church cannot be recognised as God’s church.

Christ is in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, walking from church to church, from congregation to congregation, from heart to heart. {UL 207.2}

The personal and the corporate.

He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. If the candlesticks were left to the care of human agents, how often the light would flicker and go out. But God has not given His church into the hands of men. Christ, the One who gave His life for the world, that all who believe in Him may not perish, but have everlasting life, is the true Watchman of the house. He is the Warder, faithful and true, of the temple-courts of the Lord. We have reason to thank God that we are not dependent on the presence of earthly priest or minister. We are kept by the power of God. The presence and grace of Christ is the secret of all life and light. . . . {Ibid.}

If you want life, if you want light, an enlightened mind, the secret is you must have the presence of Jesus. Without that, with all our philosophy and all our understanding, we are destitute. That is what Jesus says to Laodicea, You say you are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing, and you do not know that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. Why? Because I am standing outside, knocking to come in.

The church that does not recognise Jesus walking in it, and does not consciously guard to hold His presence, the heart that does not hold His presence, is destitute of His presence. If a church is guilty of that, Jesus has departed from it.

God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations; {UL 315.5}

God has a church. It is not the cathedral, not the national establishment, neither the various denominations.

…it is the people who love God and keep His commandments. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). Where Christ is even among the humble few, {Ibid.}

Among whom? A big congregation and a cathedral? A denominational assembly? No.

Where Christ is even among the humble few, this is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church. {Ibid.}

Where is Christ’s church? Among those who are conscious and desirous of His presence, and who are conscious of His absence, those who solicit His presence and are willing to keep His commandments because they love Him. There is God’s church.

Those who claim that they are members of God’s church because in history and prophecy they can see themselves as God’s church, are looking at the wrong source of God’s church. God’s church is identified in history and prophecy by the words that He uttered to the twelve disciples when He spoke to them, and he said, “Lo, I am with you, even unto to end of the world.” With who? Those who revered Him and felt lost when He was not with them. To those people He was saying, I will be with you till the end of the world.

Indeed it was this little company of disciples, the characteristic of these disciples, that He would be with right to the end of the world.

The work of the ministry is no common work. Christ is withdrawn only from the eye of sense, but he is as truly present by his Spirit as when he was visibly present on earth. {ST, April 7, 1890 par. 6}

There He was with the disciples, their eyes saw Him; but after He left, the sense of eye does not mean that He is not present.

The time that has elapsed since his ascension has brought no interruption in the fulfillment of his parting promise,–“Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” God has provided light and truth for the world by having placed it in the keeping of faithful men, {Ibid.}

Who did He give it to? Faithful men, the eleven disciples. By this time Judas was already gone. It was just before His ascension that He said that.

God has provided light and truth for the world by having placed it in the keeping of faithful men, who in succession have committed it to others through all generations up to the present time. These men have derived their authority in an unbroken line from the first teachers of the faith. {Ibid.}

Can you see what is here introduced to our understanding from God’s word? When Jesus spoke to the eleven disciples, He said, I will be with you, even unto the end of the world. What did that mean? It meant that the succeeding generation of believers, like the disciples, would be spoken to as He spoke to the disciples; that, in succession, other people committed the same spirit of communication as did the twelve disciples. They committed it to others through all generations, up to the present time. These men have derived their authority in an unbroken line from the first teachers of the faith.

Christ remains the true minister of his church, but he delegates his power to his under-shepherds, to his chosen ministers, who have the treasure of his grace in earthen vessels. God superintends the affairs of his servants, and they are placed in his work by divine appointment. {Ibid.}

There is a mentality that is running through Christendom that is called “apostolic succession”, and it is based on an entirely different principle than the one mentioned here. Just because you have been born in a denomination that has once had the true apostles in it, does not mean that you have got it now. Just because God had called the Jewish church His people, did not mean that they would remain His people. It was the faithful people that demonstrated in the time of Jesus where His church was. It was the apostles who recognised Him; the church did not, they rejected Him.

From that time onwards, there have been many denominational churches that have started from faithful apostles, and then became corrupted. They are not God’s church. Who is God’s church? The faithful few who acknowledge His presence; those who, when it is not there, cry to find it again, to make sure that Jesus is really with them. Jesus made the promise to the little flock of faithful believers. What were they? Fishermen, tax collectors, common people. Not the priests, not the ministers. But Jesus made them ministers. With such a people Jesus would be to the end of the world.

The church is God’s fortress, His city of refuge, which He holds in a revolted world. Any betrayal of the church is treachery to Him who has bought mankind with the blood of His only-begotten Son. From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth. {AA 11.2}

Remember, Where Christ is even among the humble few, this is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church. It is the faithful souls that constitute the church on earth.

In every age the Lord has had His watchmen, who have borne a faithful testimony to the generation in which they lived. {Ibid.}

A faithful testimony, a faithful people, the disciples who would stand up and be counted to proclaim only that which is acceptable in Jesus Christ’s mind.

These sentinels gave the message of warning; and when they were called to lay off their armor, others took up the work. God brought these witnesses into covenant relation with Himself, uniting the church on earth with the church in heaven. He has sent forth His angels to minister to His church, and the gates of hell have not been able to prevail against His people. {Ibid.}

As you go through the history of the church, the seven churches in Revelation, you know the history and how it fluctuated from one church organisation to the other, and all the way through, Jesus had His church, and the gates of hell have not been able to prevail against His people, because they were faithful souls that He could continue to be with, like the disciples

Through centuries of persecution, conflict, and darkness, God has sustained His church. Not one cloud has fallen upon it that He has not prepared for; not one opposing force has risen to counterwork His work, that He has not foreseen. All has taken place as He predicted. He has not left His church forsaken, but has traced in prophetic declarations what would occur, and that which His Spirit inspired the prophets to foretell has been brought about. All His purposes will be fulfilled. His law is linked with His throne, and no power of evil can destroy it. Truth is inspired and guarded by God; and it will triumph over all opposition. {AA 11.3}

During ages of spiritual darkness the church of God has been as a city set on a hill. From age to age, through successive generations, the pure doctrines of heaven have been unfolding within its borders. Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts. {AA 12.1}

What was the church in the time of the apostles? Faithful souls. And through successive generations, as certain of them died, others took their place. The history of the faithful people among whom Jesus always was, is delineated in the prophecies, and you can trace His faithful people through the morass of human organisations and denominations. Who are they every time?

The Calibre of a Disciple

A common person. Joel 2 in the last days. Who were the ones in the very last days with whom the Spirit, Jesus and the Father would be? Exactly the same as in the time of Christ.

Joel 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

Who? The servants, the handmaids, the sons and the daughters. Did it mention the priests? Oh, among them there may be those who are the sons of priests, maybe; for example, John the Baptist was a Levi. But was he recognised?

“I will be with you until the end of the world.” This successive company of people is of the same calibre as those to whom Jesus spoke personally.

What was the story of those to whom He spoke? Was it the same as what happened to Him? Did the church of His day relish Him? Were they conscious of His presence? Were they craving to have Him as one of them? No, they repulsed Him. And through every succeeding generation the same event takes place. As these faithful ones uphold the pure truth, what happens to those in authority? The authority that rested upon the disciples was described before, “These men have derived their authority in an unbroken line from the first teachers of the faith. Christ remains the true minister of his church.” The authority is not necessarily vested in those who are educated in ministerial colleges; the authority is vested in those who are faithful, as the disciples were. Those who are claiming to be ecclesiastical authorities will do in every succeeding generation as they did in Jesus’ time.

As the light and life of men was rejected by the ecclesiastical authorities in the days of Christ, so it has been rejected in every succeeding generation. Again and again the history of Christ’s withdrawal from Judea has been repeated. When the Reformers preached the word of God, they had no thought of separating themselves from the established church; but the religious leaders would not tolerate the light, {DA 232.2}

What did they therefore reject?

…and those that bore it were forced to seek another class, who were longing for the truth. In our day few of the professed followers of the Reformers are actuated by their spirit. {Ibid.}

It is a different spirit.

Few are listening for the voice of God, and ready to accept truth in whatever guise it may be presented. Often those who follow in the steps of the Reformers are forced to turn away from the churches they love, in order to declare the plain teaching of the word of God. {Ibid.}

Jesus says, “I am with you always. My presence with you, your willingness to be faithful in obeying all of My dictates to you, constitute you to be My church.” And as you stand faithful, the ecclesiastical authorities of your generation will push you out, like they pushed Christ out. Are you seeking for light? What must you do?

And many times those who are seeking for light are by the same teaching obliged to leave the church of their fathers, that they may render obedience. {Ibid.}

This is what the disciples had to do. Anyone who followed Jesus was afraid of being taken out of the church, out of the synagogue, so they refrained from following Him. But the disciples didn’t mind, they followed Him. In every succeeding generation, this was the reality. This is why, when Jesus says, I am with you; who is He talking about? Those who have always remained absolutely loyal to the developing truth that the ecclesiastical authorities were rejecting. This very principle will take us right through to the coming of Jesus.

The Lord Jesus will always have a chosen people to serve Him. When the Jewish people rejected Christ, the Prince of life, He took from them the kingdom of God and gave it unto the Gentiles. God will continue to work on this principle with every branch of His work. When a church proves unfaithful to the word of the Lord, whatever their position may be, however high and sacred their calling, the Lord can no longer work with them. {UL 131.3}

He can’t be with them.

Others are then chosen to bear important responsibilities. {Ibid.}

Who chooses them? The people? No, Christ. Then we come to the next generation, and this is what happens if they fail after they have been chosen:

But, if these in turn do not purify their lives from every wrong action, if they do not establish pure and holy principles in all their borders, then the Lord will grievously afflict and humble them and, unless they repent, will remove them from their place and make them a reproach. . . . {Ibid.}

Can Jesus say to them, I am with you? Not at all. He said it to His disciples, and to those of that calibre right through to the end.

What is actually the functioning ingredient that causes Jesus to withdraw from His organised churches that were once faithful? What is it that caused Him to withdraw and continue with the faithful ones? This is why Jesus can’t stay in the presence of ecclesiastical authoritarianism:

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

If the churches are not going to respond to the call of Jesus, Come out of there, don’t participate in the ways of the world; if they play with the worldly ways, if they communicate within the church worldly principles and ideas, then they cannot have Jesus in their midst. He has to withdraw from that. In the following statement we get vivid, inspirational understanding of how it is that Jesus has to leave and withdraw from the ecclesiastical authorities:

Will our brethren bear in mind that we are living amid the perils of the last days? Read Revelation in connection with Daniel. Teach these things. Let discourses be short, spiritual, elevated. Let the preacher be full of the word of the Lord. Let every man who enters the pulpit know that he has angels from heaven in his audience. And when these angels empty from themselves the golden oil of truth into the heart of him who is teaching the word, then the application of the truth will be a solemn, serious matter. The angel messengers will expel sin from the heart, unless the door of the heart is padlocked and Christ is refused admission. {TM 337.2}

Can it be that you can be hearing preachers in a church who have actually padlocked their heart against the living Christ? Indeed, if they demonstrate a friendship with the world.

Christ will withdraw Himself from those who persist in refusing the heavenly blessings that are so freely offered them. {Ibid.}

The Holy Spirit is doing its work on the hearts. But if the ministers have not first received their message from heaven, if they have not drawn their own supplies from the refreshing, life-giving stream, how can they let that flow forth which they have not received? What a thought, that hungry, thirsty souls are sent away empty! A man may lavish all the treasures of his learning, he may exhaust the moral energies of his nature, and yet accomplish nothing, because he himself has not received the golden oil from the heavenly messengers; therefore it cannot flow forth from him, imparting spiritual life to the needy. {TM 338.1}

You can have all this education, all this intellect; you can lavish it all, and it can come to nothing.

The tidings of joy and hope must come from heaven. Learn, oh, learn of Jesus what it means to abide in Christ! {Ibid.}

The sad announcement to Laodicea is all part of this situation. This withdrawal of Christ’s Spirit and presence from the church disqualifies a church. Jesus said to Peter, I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

“The keys of the kingdom of heaven” are the words of Christ. All the words of Holy Scripture are His, and are here included. These words have power to open and to shut heaven. They declare the conditions upon which men are received or rejected. Thus the work of those who preach God’s word is a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. Theirs is a mission weighted with eternal results. {DA 413.6}

The Saviour did not commit the work of the gospel to Peter individually. At a later time, repeating the words that were spoken to Peter, He applied them directly to the church. And the same in substance was spoken also to the twelve as representatives of the body of believers. If Jesus had delegated any special authority to one of the disciples above the others, we should not find them so often contending as to who should be the greatest. They would have submitted to the wish of their Master, and honored the one whom He had chosen. {DA 414.1}

But He had chosen no one, and therefore they were continuingly quibbling among themselves, I want to be the one, I want to be the one. But Jesus said, No, no.

Instead of appointing one to be their head, Christ said to the disciples, “Be not ye called Rabbi;” “neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.” Matt. 23:8, 10. {DA 414.2}

“The head of every man is Christ.” {DA 414.3}

Every individual must have the presence of Jesus inside of him. And then, when they gather, Jesus is in the midst of them.

God, who put all things under the Saviour’s feet, “gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 1:22, 23. The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend upon man, or be controlled by man. Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they shall do. {Ibid.}

Many believe that if they have a position in the church, then they have the authority. And, as we have read, the ecclesiastical authorities will reject Christ, because if they claim authority as individuals, they have already repulsed Jesus Christ.

This claim God does not sanction. The Saviour declares, “All ye are brethren.” All are exposed to temptation, and are liable to error. Upon no finite being can we depend for guidance. The Rock of faith is the living presence of Christ in the church. Upon this the weakest may depend, and those who think themselves the strongest will prove to be the weakest, unless they make Christ their efficiency. {Ibid.}

When you thought that you were getting pretty strong, what did the Lord show you? “How weak I am.”

“Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” The Lord “is the Rock, His work is perfect.” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Jer. 17:5; Deut. 32:4; Ps. 2:12. {Ibid.}

God’s church in the last days is the humble few who are faithful and have Christ in their midst. In all the reality of what we have been meditating about, do you have, as an individual, the assurance of Christ’s presence? Do you have that assurance that Jesus is really, constantly with you? As we meet here, is Christ verily with us? How can you be sure? How can you tell? If you think carefully on everything we have been reading, you have your answer. But it is beautifully summarized in Jude. Remember, He spoke to the disciples whom He had taught Himself, and they upheld and uplifted pure truth straight from the hand of their Master. What will make you and me today the true disciples?

Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort [you] that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

This is our work. The faith that has already been delivered must never be contorted. When you and I see any pin or structure of that which has once been taught, undermined, and the pin pulled out, how can you know if Jesus is with you? If you will see Him being pushed out by that pin being taken out; if you will raise your voice and energies to contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints. That’s how you will know. By standing stiffly for the truth in exactly the same way as those few men on the plain of Dura did. How many were they? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. How many other Jews were there? How many were faithful? Three men. When they were in the fiery furnace, who was among them? Jesus. He was with the faithful few who would not bend a tiny little bit to be unnoticed. They would stand stiffly for the truth, and where was Jesus? In their midst.

Isaiah 66:1 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven [is] my throne, and the earth [is] my footstool: where [is] the house that ye build unto me? and where [is] the place of my rest?

“Where is My church?” Here:

Isaiah 66:2 For all those [things] hath mine hand made, and all those [things] have been, saith the LORD: but to this [man] will I look, [even] to [him that is] poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

Amen.

 [Jan. 17, 2009]

Posted on September 1, 2010, in Divine Service Sermons, Sermons by John Thiel, The Church of God. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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