©ohtjj tije 3Eag to ftnoimng.
"If any man willeth to do His will he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself."— John vii. 17.
rTlHERE was great division among the Jews as to J- who Christ really was, and the Divine authority of the truth He taught. They wanted some sign as a clear proof that He was really come from God. Christ's answer tells them that the proof depended upon the state of their heart.
A man who wants the Divine evidence of Christ's mission, while he is not ready to do God's will, seeks for it in vain. A man whose will is set upon doing God's will, as far as he knows it, is alone in the fit state for receiving further Divine illumination.
Our Lord says: "If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching whether it be of God." He speaks of two things: the will of God
we are to do, and the teaching about God we are to know. He tells us the second is entirely dependent upon the first. As we will to do, we shall be able to know. It is the contrast and the connection of precept and promise. Will, that is, be ready, be determined to do God's will, and you shall have Divine light and certainty as to all that Jesus has taught. The commands are simple and easy to be understood: he that seeks honestly to do them in the fear of God will learn to know the mystery of Christ. A will, a disposition set upon doing God's will, is the only organ for knowing God's truth.
There are many Christians who complain of their lack of spiritual discernment. The promises of Christ in this very Gospel of St. John appear beyond their reach. They would fain know that "the teaching is of God"; they would like to experience and to feel that it is of Divine origin, and in Divine efficacy; that God Himself confirms and makes the words true as a living power. Take the promise of Christ in this chapter, of streams of living water flowing out of the believer. Or, later on, of the life more abundantly; of his followers not walking in darkness, but having the light of life; of our doing greater works than He had done; of His manifesting Himself to us; of His and the Father's dwelling in us; of our abiding in Him and He in us; of our asking what we will, and having it given to us. When a man really knows the teaching is from God, has the truth and power of God in it, it becomes easy to believe it, and receives its fulfilment. To all believers who really long to have these promises shine with Divine light in their hearts, Christ's message comes to-day: it all depends upon the one thing, that you really will to do the will of God. Let us try and take hold of the lessons we need.
Christ teaches us that in the growth of the Christian life faith depends upon character. Just as, at conversion, there can be no faith without repentance, so on through life faith cannot grow or inherit the promises without a life given up to the doing of God's will. "Some having thrust from them a good conscience, have made shipwreck of the faith." The great reason why so many pray for an increase of faith and never get it, is that "the will to do God's will" has never taken the place it must have. The will rules the life; the will is the index of the heart; the whole man is to be judged by the will; unless there be a fixed resolve, a seeking with the whole will to do the will of God, there can be no growth in faith or the knowledge of the Divine truth to which it gives access. It is only as God's will is truly and fully taken up into my willing and doing that God can reveal Himself to me.
God judges of our conduct by the will. Our Lord says: "If any man willeth to do His will." A believer may in his youth, through ignorance or feebleness, fail in doing the will; if He who searches the heart sees that he indeed wills, longs, and thirsts to do it, God will see in this the heart that is ready for spiritual light. "If there first be a ready mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." A believer, as in Eom. vii., may be able to say before God that he delights in the law of God after the inward man, and yet have to mourn his terrible failure. If there be this will really to do, his failure will lead him on to see how Eom. viii. 2—4 is the deliverance from the law of sin in the members by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, so that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them that walk after the Spirit. Christ's words are not meant for those who content themselves with the idea that they will to do the will while they do not press on to the life in the Spirit in which God works both to will and to do. It is the heart where the will is indeed, with its whole strength, set upon God's will, that the Divine truth and power of Christ's teaching will be known. To do the will of God, the first step is thus to take it up into our will. The will of God is the heavenly treasure in the earthen vessel of our will that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us, and we so learn to trust God to work His own will in us and through us. I cannot repeat the message too frequently or too earnestly: the one object for which our will was given us, its true nobility and blessedness, is that with it we might take in and make our own the very will that God has. Ere ever I see all that that will implies, or feel that I have the power to perform it, let me regard it as the one thing God asks from me, the one thing I can do to please Him and become a partaker of His blessedness—day by day to accept, to worship, to will His blessed will, and to do it. He works in us both to will and to do.
"Willing to do the will" of God is the sure way to all growth in spiritual knowledge and experience. Actually doing all that is within the reach of my spiritual stature, and willing with the whole heart to do all that still appears beyond me, is the single eye which ensures the whole body being full of Divine light. The great reason why so much Bible study and prayer for Divine guidance is so fruitless is this—the heart is not in the right state for receiving God's teaching. Peter writes: "Ye have purified your souls in obedience to the truth": it is the actual doing of God's will, with the entire surrender to God to do it wholly and unceasingly, in the greatest things and in the least, that purifies the soul and inherits the promise, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." There is in the will of God such a Divine vitality and energy that to the heart that wills and does it, not merely as a matter of duty or Christian training, but because God has willed it, and even as God wills it, it becomes life and strength. The spiritual knowledge of God, of His presence, His power, His indwelling is given to the obedient: "If a man love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him."
Here is the way to a strong and joyful spiritual life. Unite thyself to the will of God; it will unite thee to Him, it will draw Him to thee. Will, with all thy will, what God wills; make this the chief exercise of thy spiritual life; as much as thou truly hast of God's will thou hast of God. Our Lord said: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." He was this because He came not to do His own will, but the will of the Father. This is the one way in which He will lead thee, the new and living way He opened up in His blood by doing God's will. This is the one truth He will be to thee, that in the doing of the Father's will is the union with Him perfected. This is the one life He will give thee, the life of God given in Christ, revealed and perfected by the will of God, as it is willed and done by us.