Victorious living and effective soul-winning service are not the product of our better selves and hard endeavours, but are simply the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We are not called upon to produce the fruit, but simply to bear it. It is all the time to be His fruit. Nothing is more important then, than that we should be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit, or to keep to the metaphor, that the |trees of the Lord should be continuously full of sap| -- His sap.
How this may be so for us is graphically illustrated by the record, in the first chapter of John, of how the Holy Spirit came upon the Lord Jesus at His baptism. John the Baptist had seen Jesus coming to Him and had said of Him, |Behold, the Lamb of God that beareth the sin of the world.| Then as he baptised him, he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descending like a Dove and lighting upon Him.
The Humility of God.
What a suggestive picture we have here -- the Dove descending upon the Lamb and resting herself upon Him! The Lamb and the Dove are surely the gentlest of all God's creatures. The Lamb speaks of meekness and submissiveness and the Dove speaks of peace (what more peaceful sound than the cooing of a dove on a summer day). Surely this shows us that the heart of Deity is humility. When the eternal God chose to reveal Himself in His Son, He gave Him the name of the Lamb; and when it was necessary for the Holy Spirit to come into the world, He was revealed under the emblem of the Dove. Is it not obvious, then, that the reason why we have to be humble in order to walk with God is not merely because God is so big and we so little, that humility befits such little creatures -- but because God is so humble?
The main lesson of this incident is that the Holy Spirit, as the Dove, could only come upon and remain upon the Lord Jesus because He was the Lamb. Had the Lord Jesus had any other disposition than that of the Lamb -- humility, submissiveness and self-surrender -- the Dove could never have rested on Him. Being herself so gentle, she would have been frightened away had not Jesus been meek and lowly in heart.
Here, then, we have pictured for us the condition upon which the same Holy Spirit can come upon us and abide upon us. The Dove can only abide upon us as we are willing to be as the Lamb. How impossible that He should rest upon us while self is unbroken! The manifestations of the unbroken self are the direct opposite of the gentleness of the Dove. Read again in Galatians 5 the ninefold fruit of the Spirit (|love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control|) with which the Dove longs to fill us! Then contrast it with the ugly works of the flesh (the N.T. name for the unbroken self) in the same chapter. It is the contrast of the snarling wolf with the gentle dove!
The Disposition of the Lamb.
How clear, then, that the Holy Spirit will only come upon us and remain upon us as we are willing to be as the Lamb on each point on which He will convict us! And nothing is so searching and humbling as to look at the Lamb on His way to Calvary for us and to be shown in how many points we have been unwilling to take the position of the lamb for Him.
Look at Him for a moment as the Lamb. He was the simple Lamb. A lamb is the simplest of God's creatures. It has no schemes or plans for helping itself -- it exists in helplessness and simplicity. Jesus made Himself as nothing for us, and became the simple Lamb. He had no strength of His own or wisdom of His own, no schemes to get Himself out of difficulties, just simple dependence on the Father all the time. |The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.| But we -- how complicated we are! What schemes we have had of helping ourselves and of getting ourselves out of difficulties. What efforts of our own we have resorted to, to live the Christian life and to do God's works, as if we were something and could do something. The Dove had to take His flight (at least as far as the conscious blessing of His Presence was concerned) because we were not willing to be simple lambs.
Willing to be Shorn.
Then He was the shorn Lamb, willing to be shorn of His rights, His reputation, and every human liberty that was due to Him, just as a lamb is shorn of its wool. He never resisted: A lamb never does. When He was reviled for our sakes, He reviled not again. When He suffered, He threatened not. He never said, |You cannot treat me like that. Don't you know that I am the Son of God?| But we -- ah we, on how many occasions have we been unwilling to be shorn of that which was our right. We were not willing for His sake to lose what was our own. We insisted, too, that we should be treated with the respect due to our position. We resisted, and we fought. The Dove had to take His flight from us for we were not willing to be shorn lambs, and we were left without peace, hard and unloving.
He Answered Nothing.
Then further, He was the silent Lamb. |As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.| Facing the calumnies of men, we read, |He answered nothing.| He never defended Himself, nor explained Himself. But we have been anything but silent when others have said unkind or untrue things about us. Our voices have been loud in self-defence and self-vindication, and there has been anger in our voices. We have excused ourselves, when we should have admitted frankly our wrong. On every such occasion the Dove had to take His flight, and withdraw His peace and blessing from our hearts, because we were not willing to be the silent lamb.
He was also the spotless Lamb. Not only did nothing escape His lips, but there was nothing in His heart but love for those who had sent Him to the Cross. There was no resentment towards them, no grudges, no bitterness. Even as they were putting the nails through His hands, He was murmuring, |I forgive you,| and He asked His Father to forgive them too. He was willing to suffer it in meekness for us. But what resentment and bitterness have not we had in our hearts -- toward this one and that one, and over so much less than what they did to Jesus. Each reaction left a stain on our hearts, and the Dove had to fly away because we were not willing to bear it and forgive it for Jesus' sake.
Return, O Dove!
These, then, are the acts and attitudes which drive the Holy Spirit from our lives, as far as present blessing is concerned, and they are all sin. Sin is the only thing that hinders the revival of His Church. The question of all questions for us just now is, |How can the Dove return to our lives with His peace and power?| The answer is again just simply, |The Lamb of God,| for He is not only the simple Lamb and the shorn Lamb and the silent Lamb and the spotless Lamb, but above everything else He is the substitute Lamb.
To the Jew the lamb that was offered to God was always a substitute lamb. Its meekness and submissiveness was only incidental to its main work, that of being slain for his sin and of its blood being sprinkled on the altar to atone for it. The humility of the Lord Jesus in becoming our Lamb was necessary only that He might become on the Cross our Substitute, our scapegoat, carrying our sins in His own Body on the Tree, so that there might be forgiveness for our sins and cleansing from all their stains, when we repent of them. But inasmuch as there is no past or future with God, but all is present and timeless, there is a sense in which the suffering of the Lord Jesus for the sins of which we have not repented is present too. What a vision it is when we see these sins wounding and hurting Him now! May this solemn thought break our proud hearts in repentance! For it is only when we have seen these sins of ours in the heart of Jesus, so that we are broken and willing to repent of them and put them right, that the Blood of the Lamb cleanses us from them and the Dove returns with peace and blessing to our hearts.
He humbled Himself to the manger,
And even to Calvary's tree;
But I am so proud and unwilling,
His humble disciple to be.
He yielded His will to the Father,
And chose to abide in the Light;
But I prefer wrestling to resting,
And try by myself to do right.
Lord break me, then cleanse me and fill me
And keep me abiding in Thee;
That fellowship may be unbroken,
And Thy Name be hallowed in me.
A saintly African Christian told a congregation once that, as he was climbing the hill to the meeting, he heard steps behind him. He turned and saw a man carrying a very heavy load up the hill on his back. He was full of sympathy for him and spoke to him. Then he noticed that His hands were scarred, and he realised that it was Jesus. He said to Him, |Lord, are you carrying the world's sins up the hill?| |No,| said the Lord Jesus, |not the world's sin, just yours!| As that African simply told the vision God had just given him, the people's hearts and his heart were broken as they saw their sins at the Cross. Our hearts need to be broken too, and only when they are, shall we be willing for the confessions, the apologies, the reconciliations and the restitutions, that are involved in a true repentance of sin. Then, when we have been willing to humble ourselves, as the Lord humbled Himself, the Dove will return to us.
Return, O heavenly Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn,
And drove Thee from my breast.
Ruled by the Dove.
One last word. The Dove is the emblem of peace, which suggests that if the Blood of Jesus has cleansed us and we are walking with the Lamb in humility, the sign of the Spirit's presence and fulness will be peace. This is indeed to be the test of our walk all the way along. |Let the peace of God rule (or arbitrate) in your hearts| (Col.3:15). If the Dove ceases to sing in our hearts at any time, if our peace is broken, then it can only be because of sin. In some matter we have departed from the humility of the Lamb. We must ask God to show us what it is, and be quick to repent of it and bring the sin to the Cross. Then the Dove will be once again in His rightful place in our hearts and peace with God will be ours. In this way we shall know that continuous abiding of the Spirit's presence, which is open even to fallen men through the immediate and constant application of the precious Blood of Jesus.
Shall we not begin from today to allow our lives to be ruled by the Heavenly Dove, the peace of God, and allow Him to be the arbiter all the day through? We shall find ourselves walking in a path of constant conviction and much humbling, but in this way we shall come into real conformity with the Lamb of God, and we shall know the only victory that is worth anything, the conquest of self.