KEPT BY THE POWER OF GOD
The words from which I speak, you will find in 1 Peter, chapter one, verse five. The third, fourth, and fifth verses are: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which ...hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible . . . reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." The words of my text are: "Kept by the power of God through faith."
There we have two wonderful, blessed truths about the way a believer is kept unto salvation. One truth is, Kept by the power of God; and the other truth is, Kept through faith. We should look at the two sides-at God's side and His almighty power, offered to us to be our Keeper every moment of the day; and at the human side, we have nothing to do but in faith to let God do His keeping work. We are begotten again to an inheritance kept in heaven for us. We are kept here on earth by the power of God.
We see there is a double keeping-the inheritance kept for me in heaven, and I on earth kept for the inheritance there. Now, as to the first part of this -keeping, there is no doubt and no question. God keeps the inheritance in heaven very wonderfully and perfectly, and it is waiting there safely. And the same God keeps me for the inheritance. That is what I want to understand. It is very foolish for a father to take great trouble to have an inheritance for his children, and to keep it for them, if he does not keep them for it. Think of a man spending all of his time and making every sacrifice to amass money, and as he gets his tens of thousands, you ask him why it is that he sacrifices himself so. His answer is: "I want to leave my children a large inheritance, and I am keeping it for them." If you were then to hear that that man takes no trouble to educate his children, that he, allows them to run around the street wild, and to go in paths of sin and ignorance and folly, what would you think of him? Would you not say: "Poor man! he is keeping an inheritance for his children, but he is not keeping or preparing his children for the inheritance!" And there are so many Christians who think: "My God is keeping the inheritance for me." But they cannot believe: "My God is keeping me for that inheritance." The same power, the same love, the same God doing the double work.
Now, I want to speak about a work God does upon us, keeping us for the inheritance. I have already said that we have two very simple truths: the one, the divine side-we are kept by the power of God; the other, the human side-we are kept through faith.
KEPT BY THE POWER OF GOD
Look at the divine side: Christians are kept by the power of God. 1) Keeping Includes All. Think, first of all, that this keeping is all inclusive.
What is kept? You are kept. How much of you? The whole being. Does God keep one part of you and not another? No. Some people have an idea that this is a sort of vague, general keeping, and that God will keep them in such a way that when they die they will get to heaven. But they do not apply that word kept to everything in their being and nature. And yet that is what God wants.
Here I have a watch. Suppose that this watch had been borrowed from a friend, and he said to me: "When you go to Europe, I will let you take it with you, but mind you keep it safely and bring it back." And suppose I damage the watch, and had the hands broken, and the face defaced, and some of the wheels and springs spoiled, and took it back in that condition, and handed it to my friend. He would say: "Ah, but I gave you that watch on condition that you would keep it."
"Have I not kept it? There is the watch."
"But I did not want you to keep it in that general way, so that you should bring me back only the shell of the watch, or the remains. I expected you to keep every part of it." And so God does not want to keep us in this general way, so that at the last, somehow or other, we will be saved as by fire, and just get into heaven. But the keeping power and the love of God applies to every part of our being.
There are some people who think God will keep them in spiritual things, but not in temporal things. This latter, they say, lies outside of His realm. Now, God sends you to work in the world, but He did not say: "I must now leave you to go and earn your own money, and to get your livelihood for yourself." He knows you are not able to keep yourself. But God says: "My child, there is no work you are to do, and no business in which you are engaged, and not a cent which you are to spend, but I, your Father, will take that up into my keeping." God not only cares for the spiritual, but for the temporal, also. The greater part of the life of many people must be spent, sometimes eight or nine or ten hours a day, amid the temptations and distractions of business. But God will care for you there. The keeping of God includes all.
There are other people who think: "Ah! in time of trial God keeps me. But in times of prosperity I do not need. His keeping; then I forget Him and let Him go." Others, again, think the very opposite. They think: "In time of prosperity, when things are smooth and quiet, I am able to cling to God. But when heavy trials come, somehow or other my will rebels, and God does not keep me then."
Now, I bring you the message that in prosperity as in adversity, in the sunshine as in the dark, your God is ready to keep you all the time. Then again, there are others who think of this keeping thus: "God will keep me from doing very great wickedness, but there are small sins I cannot expect God to keep me from. There is the sin of temper. I cannot expect God to conquer that."
When you hear of some man who has been tempted and gone astray or fallen into drunkenness or murder, you thank God for His keeping power. "I might have done the same as that man," you say, "if God had not kept me." And you believe He kept you from drunkenness and murder. And why do you not believe that God can keep you from outbreaks of temper? You thought that this was of less importance. You did not remember that the great commandment of the New Testament is-"Love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34). And when your temper and hasty judgment and sharp words came out, you sinned against the highest law-the law of God's love. And yet you say: "God will not, God cannot"-no, you will not say, God cannot; but you say, "God does not keep me from that." You perhaps say: "He can; but there is something in me that cannot attain to it, and which God does not take away."
I want to ask you, Can believers live a holier life than is generally lived? Can believers experience the keeping power of God all day, to keep them from sin? Can believers be kept in fellowship with God? And I bring you a message from the Word of God, in these words: Kept by the power of God. There is no qualifying clause to them. The meaning is, that if you will entrust yourself entirely and absolutely to the omnipotence of God, He will delight in keeping you.
Some people think that they can never reach the point that every word of their mouth would be to the glory of God. But it is what God wants of them; it is what God expects of them. God is willing to set a watch at the door of their mouth. If God will do that, can He not keep their tongue and their lips? He can. That is what God is going to do for those who trust Him. God's keeping is all-inclusive. Let everyone who longs to live a holy life think about all their needs, their weaknesses, their shortcomings, and their sins, and say deliberately: "Is there any sin that my God cannot keep me from?" And the heart will have to answer: "No, God can keep me from every sin."
2) Keeping Requires Power. Second, if you want to understand this keeping, remember that it is not only an all-inclusive keeping, but it is an almighty keeping.
I want to get that truth burned into my soul. I want to worship God until my whole heart is filled with the thought of His omnipotence. God is almighty, and the Almighty God offers Himself to work in my heart-to do the work of keeping me. I want to get linked .with omnipotence, or rather, linked to the omnipotent One--the living God-and to have my place in the hollow of His hand. You read the Psalms, and you think of the wonderful thoughts in many of the expressions that David uses. For instance, when he speaks about being our God, our Fortress, our Refuge, our strong Tower, our Strength, and our Salvation. David had wonderful views of how the everlasting God is Himself the hiding place of the believing soul. David had a beautiful understanding of how God takes the believer and keeps him in the very hollow of His hand-in the secret of His pavilion-under the shadow of His wings, under His very feathers. And there David lived. And we, who are the children of Pentecost, who have known Christ, His blood, and the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, why is it that we know so little of what it is to walk step by step with the Almighty God as our Keeper?
Have you ever thought that, in every action of grace in your heart, you have the whole omnipotence of God engaged to bless you? When I come to a man and he gives me a gift of money; I get it and go away with it. He has given me something of his. The rest he keeps for himself. But that is not the way with the power of God. God can part with nothing of His own power, and therefore I can experience the power and goodness of God only so far as I am in contact and fellowship with Him. And when I come into contact and fellowship with Him, I come into contact and fellowship with the whole omnipotence of God. I have the omnipotence of God to help me every day.
A son has, perhaps, a very rich father, and as the former is about to commence business the father says: "You can have as much money as you want for your undertaking." All the father has is at the disposal of the son. And that is the way with God, your Almighty God. You can hardly take it in; you feel like such a little worm. His omnipotence is needed to keep a little worm! Yes, His omnipotence is needed to keep every little worm that lives in the dust, and also to keep the universe. Therefore, His omnipotence is much more needed in keeping your soul and mine from the power of sin.
Oh, if you want to grow in grace, do learn to begin here. In all your judgings and meditations and thoughts and deeds and questions and studies and prayers, learn to be kept by your Almighty God. What is the Almighty God not going to do for the child that trusts Him? The Bible says: "Above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). It is omnipotence you must learn to know and trust. Then you will live as a Christian ought to live. How little we have learned to study God, and to understand that a godly life is a life full of God. It is a life that loves God and waits on Him, trusts Him, and allows Him to bless it! We cannot do the will of God except by the power of God. God gives us the first experience of His power to prepare us to long for more, and to come and claim all that He can do. God helps us to trust Him every day.
3) Keeping Is Continuous
Another thought. This keeping is not only all inclusive and omnipotent, but also continuous and unbroken.
People sometimes say: "For a week or a month God has kept me very wonderfully. I have lived in the light of His countenance, and I can say what joy I have had in fellowship with Him. He has blessed me in my work for others. He has given me souls, and at times I felt as if I were carried heavenward on eagle wings. But it did not continue. It was too good; it could not last." And some say: "It was necessary that I should fall to keep me humble." And others say: "I know it was my own fault; but somehow you cannot always live up in the heights." Oh, beloved, why is it? Can there be any reason why the keeping of God should not be continuous and unbroken? Just think. All life is in unbroken continuity. If my life were stopped for half an hour, I would be dead, and my life gone. Life is a continuous thing, and the life of God is the life of His Church. The life of God is His almighty power working in us. And God comes to us as the Almighty One, and without any condition He offers to be my Keeper. His keeping means that day by day, moment by moment, God is going to keep us.
If I were to ask you the question: "Do you think God is able to keep you one day from actual transgression?" you would answer: "I not only know He is able to do it, but I think He has done it. There have been days in which He has kept my heart in His holy presence. There have also been days when, though I have always had a sinful nature within me, He has kept me from conscious, actual transgression."
Now, if He can do that for an hour or a day, why not for two days? Oh! let us make God's omnipotence as revealed in His Word the measure of our expectations. Has God not said in His Word: "I, the Lord, do keep it, and will water it every moment" (Isaiah 27:3)? What can that mean? Does "every moment" mean every moment? Did God promise of that vineyard or red wine that every moment He would water it so that the heat of the sun and the scorching wind might never dry it up? Yes. In South Africa, they sometimes make a graft, and above it they tie a bottle of water, so that now and then there will be a drop to saturate what they have put about it. And so the moisture is kept there unceasingly until the, graft has had time to take, and resist the heat of the sun.
Will our God, in His tenderhearted love toward us, not keep us every moment when He has promised to do so? Oh! if we once got hold of the thought: Our whole spiritual life is to be God's doing-"It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Once we get faith to expect that from God, God will do all for us.
The keeping is to be continuous. Every morning, God will meet you as you wake. It is not a question: If I forget to wake in the morning with the thought of Him, what will come of it? If you trust your waking to God, God will meet you in the mornings as you wake with His divine sunshine and life. He will give you the consciousness that through the day you have got God to continually take charge of you with His almighty power. And God will meet you the next day and every day. Never mind if, in the practice of fellowship, failure sometimes comes. If you maintain your position-and say: "Lord, I am going to expect You to do Your utmost, and I am going to trust You day by day to keep me absolutely," your faith will grow stronger and stronger. You will know the keeping power of God in unbrokenness.
KEPT THROUGH FAITH
And now the other side-Believing. "Kept by the power of God through faith." How must we look at this faith?
4) Faith Implies Helplessness
Let me say, first of all, that this faith means utter inability and helplessness before God.
At the bottom of all faith there is a feeling of helplessness. If I have a bit of business to transact, perhaps to buy a house, the lawyer must do the work of getting the transfer of the property in my name. He must make all the arrangements. I cannot do that work, and, in trusting that agent, I confess I cannot do it. And so faith always means helplessness. In many cases it means: I can do it with a great deal of trouble, but another can do it better. But in most cases it is utter helplessness: another must do it for me. And that is the secret of the spiritual life. A man must learn to say: "I give up everything. I have tried and longed and thought and prayed, but failure has come. God has blessed me and helped me, but still, in the long run, there has been so much sin and sadness." What a change comes when a man is thus broken down into utter helplessness and selfdespair, and says, "I can do nothing!"
Remember Paul. He was living a blessed life, and he had been taken up into the third heaven. Then the thorn in the flesh came, "a messenger of Satan to buffet me" (2 Corinthians 12:7). And what happened? Paul could not understand it, and three times he prayed to the Lord to take it away. But the Lord said, in effect: "No, it is possible that you might exalt yourself. Therefore, I have sent you this trial to keep you weak and humble." And Paul then learned a lesson that he never forgot-to rejoice in his infirmities. He said that the weaker he was the better it was for him. For when he was weak, he was strong in his Lord Christ.
Do you want to enter what people call "the higher life"? Then go a step lower down. I remember Dr. Boardman telling how once he was invited by a gentleman to go to a factory where they made fine shot. I believe the workmen did so by pouring down molten lead from a great height. This gentleman wanted to take Dr. Boardman up to the top of the tower to see how the work was done. The doctor came to the tower, he entered by the door, and began going upstairs. But when he had gone a few steps, the gentleman called out: "That is the wrong way. You must come down this way. That stair is locked up." The gentleman took him downstairs a good many steps, and there an elevator was ready to take him to the top. He said: "I have learned a lesson that going down is often the best way to get up."
Ah, yes, God will have to bring us down very low. A sense of emptiness and despair and nothingness will have to come upon us. It is when we sink down in utter helplessness that the everlasting God will reveal Himself in His power. Then our hearts will learn to trust God alone.
What is it that keeps us from trusting Him perfectly?
Many say: "I believe what you say, but there is one difficulty. If my trust were perfect and always abiding, all would come right, for I know God will honor trust. But how am I to get that trust?"
My answer is: "By the death of self. The great hindrance to trust is self-effort. So long as you have got your own wisdom and thoughts and strength, You cannot fully trust God. But when God breaks you down, when everything begins to grow dim before your eyes and you see that you understand nothing, then God is coming near. If you will bow down in nothingness and wait on God, He will become all."
As long as we are something, God cannot be all. His omnipotence cannot do its full work. That is the beginning of faith-utter despair of self, a ceasing from man and everything on earth and finding our hope in God alone.
5) Faith Is Rest
And then, next, we must understand that faith is rest.
In the beginning of the faith-life, faith is struggling. But as long as faith is struggling, faith has not attained its strength. But when faith in its struggling gets to the end of itself, and throws itself upon God and rests on Him, then joy and victory come.
Perhaps I can make it plainer if I tell the story of how the Keswick Convention began. Canon Battersby was an evangelical clergyman of the Church of England for more than twenty years. He was a man of deep and tender godliness, but he did not have the consciousness of rest and victory over sin. He was often deeply saddened by the thought of stumbling and failure and sin. When he heard about the possibility of victory, he felt it was desirable, but it was as if he could not attain it. On one occasion, he heard an address on "Rest and Faith" from the story of the nobleman who came from Capernaum to Cana to ask Christ to heal his child. In the address, it was shown that the nobleman believed that Christ could help him in a general way. But he came to Jesus a good deal by way of an experiment. He hoped Christ would help him, but he did not have any assurance of that help. But what happened? When Christ said to him: "Go thy way, for thy child liveth" (John 4:50), that man believed the word that Jesus spoke. He rested in that word. He had no proof that his child was well again, and he had to walk back seven hours' journey to Capernaum. He walked back, and on the way met his servant, and got the first news that the child was well.The servant told him that at one o'clock on the afternoon of the previous day, at the very time that Jesus spoke to him, the fever left the child. That father rested on the word of Jesus and His work, and he went down to Capernaum and found his child well. He praised God, and he and his whole house became believers and disciples of Jesus. Oh, friends, that is faith! When God comes to me with the promise of His keeping, and I have nothing on earth to trust in, I say to God: "Your word is enough. I am kept by the power of God." That is faith, that is rest. When Canon Battersby heard that address, he went home that night, and in the darkness of the night he found rest. He rested on the word of Jesus. And the next morning, in the streets of Oxford, he said to a friend: "I have found it!" Then he went and told others, and asked that the Keswick Convention might commence. He said that those at the convention, along with himself, should simply testify what God had done.
It is a great thing when a man comes to rest on God's almighty power for every moment of his life. It is also great when he does so in the midst of temptations to temper and haste and anger and unlovingness and pride and sin. It is a great thing in the face of these to enter into a covenant with the omnipotent Jehovah--not on account of anything that any man says, or of anything that my heart feels-but on the strength of the Word of God: "Kept by the power of God through faith."
Oh, let us say to God that we are going to prove Him to the very utmost. Let us say: We ask You for nothing more than You can give, but we want nothing less. Let us say: My God, let my life be a proof of what the omnipotent God can do. Let these be the two dispositions of our souls every day-deep helplessness, and simple, childlike rest.
6) Faith Needs Fellowship
That brings me to just one more thought in regard to faith. Faith implies fellowship with God.
Many people want to take the Word and believe that, but do not think it is so necessary to fellowship with God. Ah, no! you cannot separate God from His Word. No goodness or power can be received separate from God. If you want to get into this life of godliness, you must take time for fellowship with God. People sometimes tell me: "My life is one of such scurry and bustle that I have no time for fellowship with God." A dear missionary said to me: "People do not know how we missionaries are tempted. I get up at five o'clock in the morning, and there are the natives waiting for their orders for work. Then, I have to go to the school and spend hours there. Then, there is other work, and sixteen hours rush along. I hardly get time to be alone with God."
Ah! there is the need. I pray you, remember two things. I have not told you to trust the omnipotence of God as a thing, and I have not told you to trust the Word of God as a written book. I have told you to go to the God of ornnipotence andthe God of the Word. Deal with God as that nobleman dealt with the living Christ. Why was he able to believe the word that Christ spoke to him? Because in the very eyes and tone and voice of Jesus, the Son of God, he saw and heard something which made him feel that he could trust Him. And that is what Christ can do for you and me. Do not try to stir and arouse faith from within. How often I have tried to do that, and made a fool of myself! You cannot stir up faith from the depths of your heart. Leave your heart, and look into the face of Christ. Listen to what He tells you about how He will keep you. Look up into the face of your loving Father, and take time every day with Him. Begin a new life with the deep emptiness and poverty of a man who has got nothing, and who wants to get everything from Him-with the deep restfulness of a man who rests on the living God, the omnipotent Jehovah. Try God, and prove Him if He will not open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing that there will not be room to receive it.
I close by asking if you are willing to fully experience the heavenly keeping for the heavenly inheritance? Robert Murray M'Cheyne says, somewhere: "Oh, God, make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be made." And if that prayer is in your heart, come now, and let us enter into a covenant with the everlasting and omnipotent Jehovah afresh. In great helplessness, but in great restfulness, let us place ourselves in His hands. And then, as we enter into our covenant, let us have the one prayer--that we may fully believe that the everlasting God is going to be our companion. Let us believe that He will hold our hand every moment of the day. He is our Keeper, watching over us without a moment's interval. He is our Father, delighting to reveal Himself in our souls always. He has the power to let the sunshine of His love be with us all day. Do not be afraid that because you have your business you cannot have God with you always. Learn the lesson that the natural sun shines on you all day, and you enjoy its light. Wherever you are you have got the sun; God makes certain that it shines on you. And God will make certain that His own divine light shines on you, and that you will abide in that light, if you will only trust Him for it. Let us trust God to do that with a great and entire trust. Here is the omnipotence of God, and here is faith reaching out to the measure of that omnipotence. We can say: "All that that omnipotence can do, I am going to trust my God for." Are not the two sides of this heavenly life wonderful? God's omnipotence covers me, and my will in its littleness rests in that omnipotence, and rejoices in it!
Moment by moment, I'm kept in His love;
Moment by moment, I've life from above;
Looking to Jesus, the glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, Oh, Lord, I am thine!
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