RECEIVING AND BELIEVING.
Mr. S. Delves.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God. even to them that believe on his name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man. but of God. John 1, 12-13.
This subject is important to us all; it is very important to any who have not really received Jesus Christ so far. O that the Lord might make it a means of bringing them to that faith in Jesus Christ! It is here set forth that they might receive Jesus Christ. And also it is very important to those who have received Jesus Christ, that they should realize that they are the children of God.
The apostle John closes his gospel in this way: These things “are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God;
and that believing ye might have life through his name.” The first point and purpose of the word is that those who hear it should believe in Jesus Christ, and in believing have eternal life. Well, then, John finishes his first epistle in this way “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye might know that ye have eternal life. and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” The first purpose of the word was that ye might believe; the second purpose of it is that ye might know that if ye believe ye have eternal life. So in this connection the first purpose of the word is that ye might receive Jesus Christ; then if we have received Jesus Christ may the Holy Spirit make it such a confirming word that we may know that we are the sons of God Â— both very important considerations for us all. and I pray that the solemn importance of these matters may now rest upon our hearts and our minds.
There are these considerations arising from this whole subject, taking into it the eleventh verse. There is first the coming of Jesus Christ; He came. and we notice there is a two-fold coming. There is the coming of Jesus Christ as He came in the flesh from the bosom of the Father into this world, and there is a coming of Jesus Christ still in and by His word as it is preached and spoken in His name. He comes still in His word. There is, secondly, a very sinful rejection Â— “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” There is, thirdly, a believing reception Â— “But as many as received him.” There is fourthly a spiritually privilege. The word here translated “power” really means “right” or “privilege.” This is a spiritual privilege. He gave “power to become the sons of God. even to them that believe on his name.” Then there is lastly that new birth which is the real cause of all this receiving and believing and becoming sons
of God. “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh. nor of the will of man, but of God.”
I want to deal particularly with the third point, that is, the reception. “As many as received him.” Now, there have always been some that have received Jesus Christ in every generation. There have been more in some generations, there have been less in other generations, according as the word and work of God has prospered amongst men, and according as the power of the Holy Spirit has operated. In times of spiritual reviving, of course, there have been many who have received Him; in times of spiritual declension there have been few who have received Him, but there have always been some. There are some today, there are some in this congregation who have really received Jesus Christ. I wish it might be that every one listening to the word now might be numbered amongst those who by faith in His name have received Him into their hearts. O, 1 wish it might be so for every one’s sake!
Now. there are some things essential to receiving Jesus Christ Â— four things really, and they all integrate in this matter. You cannot have one without the others, one does not operate without the others. There are four spiritual things, that integrate in this receiving of Jesus Christ. What are they? They are, firstly, the word, the word of truth; secondly, the operation of the Holy Spirit in the heart;
thirdly, the exercise of a living faith; and fourthly a sense of the preciousness and worth of Jesus Christ in the soul. There are those four things which, integrating together, constitute such a receiving of Jesus Christ as make it absolutely certain that such as have so received Him are children of God. Let me put these things before you as simply as I can and may the Holy Spirit confirm them in your own hearts.
There is first the word, that is, the word of the truth of the gospel. It is by the word that we have any knowledge of the person and the work of Jesus Christ at all. Without the word we should be utterly ignorant of these things. I know that God works and can work in any way that seemeth good to Him, but ordinarily God works in and by His word. He has made known the truth through the scriptures, for the main purpose of the scripture is to testify of Jesus Christ. There are many, many aspects of the word of God in the scriptures that are profitable to us, indeed every aspect of the word is profitable, but let it be understood that the chief purpose of the scripture is to testify of Jesus Christ. There can be no receiving of Jesus Christ unless we receive Jesus Christ as He is set before us in the scriptures. This is very important, because it is possible Â— and I do not know how common it may be Â— for people to receive the sort
of Christ they imagine to themselves, and suppose Him to be such as they think He should be. They do not receive Jesus Christ as the scripture testifies of Him. They may receive Him perhaps as a good man, a good example, a wonderful leader, a founder of the Christian faith and such like, but that is not receiving Jesus Christ.
If we receive Jesus Christ it must be the Christ that the scripture teaches us, and the scripture teaches us that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the Saviour of sinners, it teaches us that Jesus Christ offered in and by His own sacrifice and death, a sacrifice to God for sin. We must receive Jesus Christ in that way, as the Saviour, the Redeemer, as One that has made a perfect, acceptable atonement for sin. We must receive Jesus Christ as the Intercessor for us at the right hand of God, ever living to intercede for all that come unto God by Him.
Jesus Christ is set before us in the scripture in different ways but chiefly by way of instruction. There is wonderful instruction concerning Jesus Christ in the scripture, if only we understood it. May the Holy Spirit enlighten your understanding in it, for the scriptures are full of teaching with regard to Jesus Christ. So that if anyone really is concerned to receive Jesus Christ then they should carefully read and seek prayerfully to understand the teaching of the scriptures. The scriptures are a light and Jesus Christ can only be rightly seen in the light of the scripture. Everything concerning His precious person, love, grace, power, righteousness, compassion, and precious blood is all in the scriptures for us to be instructed in the knowledge of Him. For the exercise of faith in Jesus Christ is not a mere tradition, it is not blind, it is an instructed, enlightened, guided exercise of the heart and mind.
How true that is, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”, and what a clear demonstration we have in the scriptures, of personal instances to illustrate these principles. Take the instance of the Ethiopian; he was returning from Jerusalem, pondering over the word of God and seeking to know the truth thereof, not having understanding as yet to understand the scriptures. But when Philip joined himself to the chariot and expounded to him the true teaching, the prophetical teaching of that fifty-third chapter in Isaiah, the good man saw Jesus Christ in the word, he saw Him in that chapter as being the One that should come to suffer, to bear our iniquities, to offer Himself unto God, and he received Him into his heart as just that very person that the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah revealed Him to be. He confessed his faith in the simplest possible manner, and yet the most sincere; he said “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Now that was how he received Jesus Christ, through the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. I have no doubt that the Lord could have revealed Himself to that seeking man apart from the word, but He did not do it apart from the word. You must not, my
friends, expect any other manifestation of Jesus Christ in your soul except through the scriptures.
Also Jesus Christ is set forth to us in the scripture in a way of divine promise, that is to say He is promised in the gospel to all such as believingly seek Him. We can receive Jesus Christ on the ground of the promise that God that cannot lie hath promised us eternal life in Jesus Christ, for if Jesus Christ was set before us in a detached kind of way, it would not exactly meet our case or guide our hearts in the matter. Jesus Christ is set before us in a way of promise and invitation. Jesus Christ is set forth freely and unreservedly to all such as would receive him into their hearts. Remember this, the gospel invitation is the warrant for our faith. If Jesus Christ were not set before us in a way of invitation and promise, we might say “Yes, but then the teaching of the scripture concerning Jesus Christ leaves me just as I was before. It does not give me any right to Him at all.” But now the promise does; the invitation bids you to receive Him. I won’t say that He stands at the door of an unregenerate man and knocks, as He is sometimes misrepresented as doing, but I do believe that He stands at the door of the heart that is desirous to receive Him, ready to enter in at the response of faith to His dear name. The word of truth in its teaching, its promise, its invitation, its call, is the first essential thing in receiving Jesus Christ.
Some of you have experience in this matter. I speak to wise men, those who are wise as having been instructed and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and who know the truth in their own heart. You have received Jesus Christ. How did you receive Him? Was it not as He was set before you in the gospel, as you saw Him in the light of truth to be a Saviour, Redeemer, Friend, the very Son of God who came into the world to save sinners? As you saw Him to be that holy sufferer at Calvary, as you saw Him to be that one precious sacrifice offered to God for sin, as you saw Him to be full of love to sinners? Was it not there, as you saw Him in the word and believed on Him in the word, that you received Him into your heart? That is the first essential thing in receiving Jesus Christ, to be enlightened and instructed by the word.
Now comes the next equally essential thing, and that is the operation of the Holy Spirit in the heart. I am as sure as I can be of this, that no one ever has received Jesus Christ unless the Holy Spirit has opened their heart to Him. All heart work Â— and, mark you this, all real religion is heart work, and all heart work is Holy Ghost work, and all Holy Ghost work is saving work in the soul; I hope that no other religion will ever be preached from this pulpit but a Holy Ghost religion. The necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in
the heart is equal to the necessity of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. The preparation of the heart in man to receive Jesus Christ is of the Lord.
Consider for a moment those conditions that make men unable and unwilling to receive Him, and so turn away from Him. What are they? Well. one is, of course, hardness of heart towards the things of God, an unfeeling, unresponsive condition. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to break that down, to make the heart sensitive, feeling and responsive; no one can do that but the Spirit of God. Heart conditions are such that it needs the divine person and the gracious power of the Spirit of God to deal with them. Blessed be God, no heart is too hard for the Holy Spirit to break down into contrition and repentance; no heart is too unfeeling for the Holy Spirit to make sensitive to these spiritual things and to be concerned about them.
Very much of the work of the Holy Spirit in this matter is to convince men of their sin, not merely to convince their intelligence of it theoretically, but to convince their heart of it feelingly, so that there is a preparation in conviction of sin to receive Jesus Christ as a blessed Saviour and to receive the truth and teaching of the Holy Spirit concerning Him that He came into this world to save sinners. My brethren, that is a word which means something to those whom the Holy Spirit has convinced of sin, that Jesus Christ came to save sinners. “O” they say “that is just what I need. I need that Saviour and I need that salvation.” When the Holy Spirit convinces one of their helplessness it is just the way for Jesus Christ to come into their hearts in His saving power, for He is able to save unto the uttermost, He is mighty to save. The Holy Spirit, you know, convinces men feelingly of their helpless condition, that they are without strength. The Holy Spirit, as I understand the nature of His work in the soul. does not encourage people to exercise strength that they already have, but to convince them that they have no strength, that when we were without strength, Christ died for the ungodly, and then to strengthen our hearts to believe in Him by His gracious power and influence operating within.
The work of the Holy Spirit is necessary to make the outward teaching of the word concerning Jesus Christ to have an inward effect graciously upon our hearts. Just as the Lord Jesus Christ on that wonderful day of His resurrection opened to the disciples the scriptures, and then opened the eyes of their understanding that they should understand the scriptures, so the Holy Spirit does not only give us understanding in the scriptures but open our hearts to receive the truth thereof. It is the Holy Spirit’s work to prepare the heart to receive Jesus Christ by convincing of its sinfulness, of its weakness, of its helplessness, of its poverty, of its ruin, of its utterly undone condition; then is the soul just ready to receive Jesus Christ. and for the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus Christ as a Saviour full of
grace, full of love, full of compassion, full of power, just exactly a Saviour to meet the condition which the Holy Spirit has caused us to feel in ourselves. O how suitable is a Saviour who is mighty to save to a sinner who feels so weak and ruined; a Saviour who is full of compassion to one who feels so wretched and so unworthy; a Saviour who does all the saving, how suitable to one who feels he can do nothing to save himself, and a Saviour who is full of every blessing Â— how suitable such a Saviour is to one who feels so impoverished, so very poor and needy. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to prepare the heart to receive such a precious Saviour as Jesus Christ; then to reveal His preciousness, suitability, power, and fullness in our heart itself, that we really see Him for ourselves to be the Saviour that He really is.
Thirdly, in receiving Jesus Christ there is the essential exercise of faith in them that believe on His name. This is how faith comes to us and how it is raised up in our heart; it is by the teaching of the word and the operations of the Holy Spirit within. So we come to believe in that precious person and mark, it is a believing with all the heart. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”. Mark that Â— with the heart. When Philip spoke to the Ethiopian he said “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” Mark the emphasis Â— “with all thine heart”, for “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.”
What does it imply? Well, it implies this for one thing, that believing in Jesus Christ is not a superficial thing, it is not just a mental process of agreeing with truth as it is set forth in the scripture. There is that, of course, but if I might say so, that is like believing with the mind rather than believing with the heart. Believing with the mind is for the mind to submit itself to the apparent evidence of truth. When there is sufficient evidence of truth to satisfy an impartial mind, and the mind is not biased against the truth anyway, but where it is impartial, where the evidence of truth is clearly seen, the mind will accept it and submit to the evidence of the truth; but that is not believing with the heart. Believing with the heart is an exercise of a much deeper character. Believing with the heart means believing with all our very being, with all that is within us; not with the mind only, for many an unregenerate man believes with his mind Â— but with all that is within us, with all our feeling, all our desire, all our affection, all our confidence Â— it is believing with all our heart.
“Well” you may say “this is not a very easy matter, then.” My friends. I acknowledge believing in Jesus Christ is not the easy matter so many people make it out to be, but when the Holy Spirit works
like this it is not a hard matter. How can it be a hard matter? It” I see Jesus Christ in the light of truth as I feel I have done, if I see Him to be the Saviour that He is, my heart gladly believes in Him. There is a real closing with Jesus Christ in the word and truth and teaching and invitation of the gospel Â— there is a real closing with Jesus Christ on His own terms. And what are they? Come unto me all ye that are weary, burdened, sinful, helpless, ruined Â— come unto me and I will give you rest. Believing in Jesus Christ is with the heart; it is sincere, it is real. it is feeling, it is with desire and affection, it is without reserve, it is this:Â—
“Black I to the fountain fly,
Wash me. Saviour, or I die”
O, it is this:Â—
“Lo! glad I come; and thou, blest Lamb,
Shall take me to thee as I am;
Nothing but sin I thee can give;
Nothing but love shall I receive”
Now that is receiving Jesus Christ. I know it is put as coming to Him. but for all I can see, coming to Him. believing in Him, and receiving Him all amount to the same thing. Receiving Jesus Christ is the submission of our whole heart to Him. to His gracious authority, His rule of love. His indwelling power; it is the submission of ourselves to Him.
“Here’s my heart. Lord, take and seal it;
Seal it from thy courts above!”
I am sure that I am right in saying that believing in Jesus Christ is receiving Him, because my text is so explicit upon it, there is no question. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
If I have given you a little insight into what it is to believe, I hope that it may be confirmed in your hearts. Perhaps some of you could say, “Well, if to believe in Jesus Christ is just to come to Him as I am, to receive His precious truth as true in my heart, to submit my very heart to Him that He would rule and reign in me with His grace and His love; if it is to say ‘Lord. come to me, be my Saviour, Redeemer, Advocate, Friend’ Â— if that is to receive Jesus Christ, then I have received Him.”
There are four things that integrate in this receiving of Jesus Christ Â— the word. the Holy Spirit’s work in the heart, this felt believing; and then lastly, which is so confirmatory to it, that it has
been and is real. there is the consciousness of His preciousness.
Anyone who has ever felt Jesus Christ to be precious has received Him beyond any question. If there is no inward consciousness of His preciousness and worth and value. I fail to see how He can have been received. For what says Peter? “To you therefore that believe he is precious”. For the Holy Spirit that so makes Jesus Christ known to us that we should believe Him and receive Him, will make Him known in such a way that He is felt to be precious. I am not saying, of course, that one is always in this frame of mind, in this exercise of faith. I am describing it to you as it is when one is in that frame of mind and exercise of faith; then He is precious. For,
“This proof we would give that thee we receive
Thou art precious alone to the souls that believe.”
By precious we mean that He is felt to be invaluable to us and desirable, and that His name has a fragrance, a sweetness, a savour that endears Him to us. For because of the savour of His good ointments. His name is as ointment poured forth. Brethren. everything about Jesus Christ is precious Â— everything; His person, His love. His grace. His atoning blood Â— His precious blood. His compassion. His fullness. His righteousness; everything about Jesus Christ is precious. And if He is precious in your heart, it is a confirmation that you have really received Him. “To them that believe he is precious.” Jesus Christ is everything that we need and everything that is in Jesus Christ we do need. O, He fits us exactly doesn’t He? O, may the Holy Spirit make Jesus Christ fit your case and give you a case that fits Jesus Christ and then you will receive Him, believe Him. love Him. and be for ever thankful that you ever knew Him at all. and that ever He came into the world to save sinners. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name;
which were born. not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” I leave these considerations upon your mind. praying as I close that the Holy Spirit will work all these operations of His saving grace and power in every one of us. Amen.