We are much too far advanced in our time and message to do anything very much in the way of retrospect to help those who are just with us. But it's sufficient to say that we are being occupied at this time with the relationship of the Lord Jesus to God's great, heavenly, eternal order.
Having looked back to that order in its primal beauty and glory and nature, we have seen the disruption and upset and dislocation which were brought in by rebellious powers in heaven, who by reason of their rebellion, were cast out. And then their leader, coming into things here, with this one object of spoiling the work of God, and upsetting that heavenly order which had been introduced into this earth; all the terrible story resultant from a disturbed and upset Divine order - making that word and its meaning 'heavenly order' the key to the Bible.
But we are particularly seeing the relationship of the Lord Jesus to that whole business - why He came into this world, why He lived long enough on this earth to show and to manifest the laws of that heavenly order in His own Person. And all that was bound up with His union with the Father in His teaching; in His works. And then, why He died as He did. All related to the recovery and establishment of the heavenly order in this creation. No wonder He was marked from His birth for destruction. No wonder the prince of this world, having a very ready instrument to hand in Herod, sought to curtail that life at its very beginning. No wonder that all the way through His public life there ran that hatred, that malicious hatred - and it is repeatedly stated, "they sought to destroy Him". He was here to "destroy the works of the devil". "The Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil", and that meant to destroy the destroyer of God's heavenly order.
Now, we've covered a lot of ground in that connection. Today we have come to the point where we are seeking to put our finger upon some of the things which were the cause of that disruption, used to it, and which have got to be destroyed. Firstly in the individual believer - and remember that, it's an open window to a very great deal in our individual Christian life, that that which the Son of God was manifested to do, destroy the works of the devil, begins in the individual believer; that is, so far as the practical outworking of it is concerned. And then it has to spread and extend, through all relationships - personal relationships, and church relationships - the works of the devil have got to be destroyed. And we are seeking to find out what those works are that have to be destroyed.
I'm not going to take you again this afternoon to passages which were before us this morning - I come straight to the truths themselves without the illustrations and symbolisms. This morning we saw that the first blow at that heavenly, Divine order at the beginning, was struck with the weapon of a lie. A lie! The enemy brought with him a lie about God, and about man, and about the laws of God. Well, it's alright so far, but when man exposed himself, or opened himself to that lie - gave an ear to it, gave attention to it, permitted it to stand - the lie entered into the very constitution of the man, and through the man to the race, and through the race, into the whole system of this world.
Well, we spent the morning in trying to show the devastating effect of untruth, and therefore the tremendously vital importance in the reconstruction of a heavenly order of truth. For it is (let me repeat once more) only in the Divine order that the Divine end can be reached - no other way.
Now this afternoon, then, we come to the second of these things which, on the one side, spelt the disruption of this creation, and on the other side, spells the recovery and reconstruction. And that is: unbelief and faith.
Unbelief and Faith
There are so many parts of the Scripture to which we could turn at this time, in this connection. May it suffice for the present to remind you that, when at last the work is done, the recovery is perfected, and all the damage is repaired, and the works of the devil have been completely cast out, and we have that wonderful symbolic representation of what is heavenly in nature and order: the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, there are some very significant things said there. We have this, for one, in Revelation 21 and verse 8: "But for the fearful and unbelieving and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone" - the unbelieving come in the category at last.
It was an original work by which the creation was thrown into such confusion; it is the final work of the triumphant Lamb that sees unbelief in the lake of fire. As I have said, there are many Scriptures that I could quote, and to which I could turn you, on this matter of unbelief. You will probably be recalling some, but there is that very significant statement regarding the whole generation of Israel which came out of Egypt, with God's thought and will that they should enter upon that which would be a wonderful, earthly representation of the heavenly order. It is written over the whole of that generation: "They could not enter in because of unbelief". It's the great frustrating thing; the great limiting thing; it is the great spoiling thing. It disappoints God and man.
Well, let us look at this. What is its nature? What is the nature of unbelief? It is nothing less and other than a vicious slandering of God, "Hath God said ...?" Hath God said? You can hear a leer and you can hear something unholy, something that would bring God Himself into question. Well, unbelief is all that we can say that is against God; it is disparagement of God. "Hath God said?" - there's the note of disparagement there. It is the defaming of God. It is calumny against God. It is libel against God. It is detraction from God, it is casting an aspersion upon God. It's all that and much more. That's unbelief.
Unbelief always calls God into question; always takes something from God of His character and puts something upon God which does not belong to His nature. It's a terrible thing, is unbelief. We know quite well, when we are saying all these things, that we are hitting ourselves fully, pretty hard; we are not saying this objectively about other people, or about you; we are taking ourselves very severely to task, facing the truth about our own hearts.
We know quite well that unbelief or doubt, is always weakness, and it always has the effect of disintegrating the life, just shattering its unity, pulling it to pieces. Thus it weakens our souls; it weakens our hands in the work of God, or in any purpose. It arrests our progress. Oh, how true these things are, and how much more can be said truly about this terrible thing - unbelief!
If you were going to buy a newly built house, and wanting to be very sure, you brought the builder along, and you said to him: "Will the foundation really hold up that house?" And he said, "I'm not sure..."
"Will that roof really be weather-proof and watertight?"
"I don't know, I have my doubts."
"Will those floors really sustain the weight that I want to put on them?"
"I don't know...".
"Well, will the whole thing stay together?"
"I can't tell you."
What would you do? Well, I know what you would do. You would say, "You can have your house; that's not what I want". But perhaps you would turn to him, and say, "Have you ever thought of a name for your house?" Again, he might say, "No I don't know." "Well, I will give you a name for that house: Doubting Castle!" Doubting Castle. And we might just put in there a little parenthesis from our brother, John Bunyan. Do you remember Doubting Castle? And this might be very appropriate just for today for some of us, for Christian and Hopeful had been having a good time by the river, really enjoying a time on the banks of the river, as they walked along.
But good times have a way of passing, and as they went on, they came upon a very rugged piece of road, so different, and hard going. But after a time, they began to complain about the road, and the hardness of the way. They began to ask questions as to whether this was right, whether this ought to be, whether the King was really kind in asking them to come along such a road. And while they were so occupied, they came to a little bypath in the road, which led off from the main road, and it led into Bypath Meadow, in which was Doubting Castle, the residence of Giant Despair.
And because they were trespassing (how clever Bunyan was!) they were trespassing - they were where they ought not to have been - Giant Despair espied them and came out and dragged them in, and flung them into a dungeon. And here is another touch of genius - Bunyan says they had very little to say to each other now, because they both knew they were in the wrong. They had been rejoicing together, talking about the Lord, and the things of the Lord, and having blessed fellowship. And now that was all brought to a stop in Doubting Castle, under the shadow of Giant Despair. There they lay, everything suspended.
But, after a while, Christian recollected, he recollected that he had the key of the Castle in his bosom. And he said, "What a fool I am thus to lie in a stinking dungeon when I can be walking at liberty. I have the key!" When he said that, Giant's Despair's limbs began to tremble and to fail him, and his fits recommenced to take hold of him, and he was unable to keep them in his dungeon or his castle!
Well, that's it: unbelief! The ravages of unbelief; it's forbidden ground; it's a bypath meadow. It is off the main road. You and I have visited that more than once; we have been caught. But there it is; that's what has happened to man. And that - let us be honest - has happened to us, perhaps more than once. We have allowed this sinister thing to come in, and ask questions about the goodness of the Lord, about the love of God; to wonder whether our hard road is after all not a contradiction to His goodness and His mercy. Once we get down that road, we are getting off the track; once we let that thing begin to have a place, it will not be long before we are in the grip of Giant Despair. It's like that, dear friends, we know it's true. Well, this world is there; many Christians get there.
All that remains to be said is that faith, faith, belief is a mighty, mighty weapon in the Son of God, for destroying the works of the devil. Now you see, His life here - why did He live here? He did not come into this world with anything whatever to rest upon as a guarantee or assurance of worldly success, or from the natural standpoint, that His mission would be successful. He came in minus everything that this world requires for success. And so He lived. He had no wealth; He had no worldly influence; He was brought up in a place which itself represented a handicap to His life - a town with a bad reputation! "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" And so He lived right the way through, with every thing lacking that this world demands for success, and much, very much present that was set against Him, and in a very atmosphere of malice and hatred. It was there, but He lived and won through an earthly life on one thing only, and that was faith in His Father - faith in His Father.
And who shall say, in the light of the record, that that faith was not put to it very, very severely at times? It was, it was. Right to the last breath, He was assailed. He was assailed. If there is any meaning or truth at all in the statement that "He was tempted at all points like as we are" - sin apart - tempted nevertheless; Satan came to Him in the wilderness on this very thing. The insinuation of the devil again in the wilderness, is, "If God were Your Father, He wouldn't let You hunger - and yet You hunger!" That's the serpent. But the fact is that under the severest testings of faith, to the end, He won through.
Those two last cries on the Cross: "My God, why... why...?" That's the cry of a tested faith, isn't it, "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" You and I will never have, by the goodness and mercy of God, to cry that cry. But you and I in so much smaller ways have more than once said to the Lord, "Why...?" But then, I am so glad that there was a change from "My God, My God, why..." to "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit". That's the end. Faith has triumphed; back into the realm of absolute confidence in His Father; and there He closes His life. But you see, He was, in His own life and Person, recovering and re-establishing this law of a heavenly order; it's brought back by triumphant faith.
It is, in the first place, the assurance of God.
The Assurance of God
It is the assurance that God is the Saviour. "Strong cries and tears that He might be saved, that He might be saved from death, and He was heard in that He feared", meaning, of course, as that word always does in the Bible, not that He was afraid, but that He trusted. He trusted God for His salvation. The assurance of salvation - that's faith - in God. The assurance of purpose in calling. Satan tried to destroy that in the wilderness, to get Him off, to experiment with God, and resort to some other kind of method of fulfilling His vocation, in capturing the dominion of the kingdoms of this world: "Do it in Your own strength. Do it in the popular way. Do it as other men do it. Don't do it by faith; do it by works! Do it out from Yourself". Trying to raise a question, "If, if..." all the time - raise a question as to whether, with all that was against Him, and all this threat that was confronting Him, He could fulfill His mission. He was called to this work. And faith triumphed in the matter of His calling, His vocation, the purpose of God in His life. You and I are tested along those same lines - as to God, an assurance of God; as to salvation, many, many a man and woman, who has lived a long life in walking with God, has had that supreme test before the life closed, on the question of assurance of salvation. It's a fact.
I read through again, last week again, the life of Dr. A. B. Simpson. If ever there was a man who walked with God, he did. If ever there was a man to whom the Lord talked, he was such. If ever a man was used of the Lord, he was, worldwide, with a wonderful testimony. In the closing weeks of his life, he was under the dark, dark cloud of questioning whether he was really saved. His brethren had to gather around him, and fight that battle in prayer for him, and he came out triumphant before he went.
But Satan, you see, never, never gives up this thing: trying to spoil everything by insinuating unbelief and questions about God. It shatters everything. Because he knows, the enemy knows, that faith, after all, involves everything, just as unbelief involves everything. It is not one of those things that you can isolate, separate - it involves everything. That is why, through the apostle, in prescribing the armour against principalities and powers, he puts this in: "And take the big shield of faith" - that's what it is; it isn't in our translation, but that's what it is - the big shield, the over-all shield. You may have all the other pieces of the armour, and all the other places where it fits, but you have got to cover everything with faith. Even your righteousness has got to be a righteousness by faith, every bit of it. The truth - the girdle of truth - it's of no avail only by faith. You see? Faith involves everything, and that is why the enemy struck at faith at the beginning, and never ceases to strike. And that continues, that conflict will continue to the end.
Now, we have related this matter to building. This is the second pillar of the seven pillars of wisdom, with which she is building her house. If the first is 'truth' the second is 'faith' - it is. And there will be no building without faith. There will be just the opposite - everything will go to pieces if there is unbelief, if there is doubt. We know it so well, it is true. So Paul cries, "The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God".
Now, I am very glad, dear friends, that that's the literal way of putting it, and for what that means, because you and I are so often found helpless and baffled, because we feel we haven't got the kind of faith, and the measure of faith that is called for. You know that, and I do. And perhaps this afternoon, as we speak of it, what a tremendous thing it is, we feel almost appalled at our little faith. But it's "the faith of the Son of God". He, He perfected faith in Himself. He won the battle of faith completely, and in His Cross He met that whole realm of unbelief - that evil thing - and conquered it in His Cross, as we have seen.
These principalities and powers, and hosts of wicked spirits which compassed Him about like bees, were all concentrating for one, one final blow of victory: to make Him doubt His God. But He came through, triumphant over them all. And in that way He stripped them off, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His Cross.
Now, we know (this is one of almost our platitudes and yet, how slow we are to appropriate) we know that the Holy Spirit came precisely to make good in us, and in the Church, what Jesus did in His Cross. That's a part of our doctrine, at any rate, isn't it? But that is why the Holy Spirit came, to guide us into all the truth; to take the things of Christ and show them to us; to make real in us all that was true in Christ. The Holy Spirit, therefore, has come to implant faith, to nurture faith, to strengthen faith, to bring the faith of the Son of God alive in us, and to increase in us.
Oh, if it's my faith, that is not going to get through; if it's your faith, it's a poor thing; if it is His faith, it's a mighty faith that has already conquered. It's His faith! "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I but Christ; and that life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me". Faith is the gift of God. Faith is the work of God.
Let us ask the Lord to strengthen the faith of the Son of God in us. And as together we are built up, so the building will go on, a structure that proves by its testimony, that the works of the devil have been destroyed, and this work in particular. May it never be that we cannot enter in because of unbelief, but rather be of those who, through faith and patience, inherit the promise.