"And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go." (JOH 11:44).
Many principles are taught in every miracle Jesus performed. With the help of the Lord we wish to delve into some that seem obvious in connection with our text. It is vitally important that we understand the spiritual meaning of the principles taught by these miracles.
The first principle we need to recognize is that Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life. He is the only One who can bring about a spiritual resurrection.
You and I have no might to bring a spiritual resurrection in one of our loved ones, whether it be our father or our mother, whether it be our husband or wife, whether it be our children or our grandchildren or a friend. We see them as they are by nature born under the power of sin, but you and I have no might to bring forth a spiritual resurrection.
Certainly Lazarus could not raise himself. A person who is spiritually dead cannot bring about a spiritual resurrection in his or her own strength. Nor could his affectionate sisters bring about his resurrection. Nor could Jesus' disciples call back the departed spirit of one who had already seen corruption.
When we look at our loved ones who are spiritually dead, they have the stench of spiritual death. They are filled with pride. They are filled with covetousness. They have all these dreadful things that accompany spiritual death, and you and I are not able to alter that. That stench of death that comes upon the human race as a result of the fallen Adam cannot be removed by any human being. You see one of your children or one of your loved ones who are bursting with pride. It matters not how you talk with them, you will never alter their heart. We cannot remove the pride that dwells within us any more than we can from our loved ones.
Now, this is parallel with the quickening of one who is spiritually dead that we see in Lazarus. Only Christ can accomplish the spiritual resurrection, that is, by the Word and by the Holy Spirit.
I want you to notice EPH 2:1; "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sin." Who is he? Let's see the context of this verse. So back to EPH 1:20-23, "Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."
"And you hath he quickened." Christ alone has quickening power. Christ alone; Christ is the Word where we see this quickening power. It was when the Lord Jesus Christ said, "Lazarus, come forth." There was power in the Word. As He spoke the Word, Lazarus came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
Now, the one who is dead in trespasses and sins cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws him. Jesus said in JOH 5:39-40, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."
It does not say, "Ye cannot come." It says, "Ye will not." That is the part that makes it impossible for you and me to come unto Christ. It is because we have a rebellious will. By nature we love sin and the things of this life. By nature our hearts are filled with pride, and we have no desire to come unto Him. "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."
By nature the whole world lies before us as the valley of dry bones according to Ezekiel's vision in EZE 37:1-10. Now the principle we need to learn from this is that not you and I as individuals, not even the prophet Ezekiel, the prophet who was sent by the Lord, had any ability to quicken. He was not able to breathe life into one of those dead bones, which were the symbol of the apostate church.
In EZE 37:8-9 we read, "And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them."
Those dry bones were still dead. They may have come together. This is a symbol of the professing church coming together. They may come together, and the sinews and the flesh come upon them; all of the form is there, but there was no breath in them.
EZE 37:9 says, "Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."
It was only when the prophesying was unto the wind, and the wind is the symbol of the Spirit, and when the Holy Spirit came upon them and breathed breath into their nostrils, then they stood upon their feet and became a standing army.
I want you to understand something very important. Education cannot produce life. You can go through all the schools of theology. You can become learned in the Scriptures from a literal sense. You could memorize the entire Bible and every interpretation of the Bible from every commentary, but that in itself does not produce life. Persuasion of even the mightiest prophet of the Lord cannot infuse life apart from the quickening grace of the Spirit by the persuasion of the Word. Life never enters the soul unless the Holy Spirit moves upon the heart and applies the Word in the soul that life begins in the soul.
Now, we see in ROM 10:16-17, "But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?" Isaiah, the prophet, was prophesying, preaching to this apostate church of Israel. They wouldn't believe his report. Christ said in JOH 5:40, "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." Isaiah said, And they have not all obeyed the gospel, for Isaiah said, Lord, who hath believed our report? "So then faith cometh by hearing."
That word faith means persuasion. In other words, when the Holy Spirit opens the understanding and the heart to receive and to hear. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." ROM 10:17.
Yet our text speaks of what Jesus said after He had restored life. Now, I want you to see a distinction. It is very important that we understand what Christ is teaching us with this miracle. The Lord Jesus Christ granted life. "The breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet" as we see in EZE 37:10b, and now our text says in JOH 11:44, "And he that was dead came forth."
However, he was still bound. Now, you see there is life. Jesus has spoken the Word, and the man was alive, but he was still "bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go." This is important. The Lord Jesus could well have spoken a word and all of the graveclothes would have stayed in the grave. He might well have spoken a word and all of the napkins and all of the graveclothes would have been taken away, and he could have come out loose and raring to go. When the Lord Jesus came out of the grave, the napkin and all of the graveclothes stayed in the grave. The Lord Jesus could have done this with Lazarus, but I want you to see the significance of His choice. He said to those who were standing by, "Loose him and let him go."
The Lord Jesus is not telling you and me that we can quicken a dead soul, but concerning one who has been quickened, we have the direct command from our Saviour that we must remove the graveclothes, and we must loose him and let him go. This doesn't mean that we sit back and fold our arms and say, "Well it all has to be given." The Lord will not go beyond what requires a miracle. Do you know why? By obedience of faith we must work out our own salvation. The Lord does the quickening, but there is more to salvation than just being quickened.
Even after Jesus had called Lazarus out of the grave by the power and authority of His Word, Lazarus was still "bound hand and foot with graveclothes." Do you know what that meant? He was not yet able to take one step. He was bound about with a napkin. He couldn't see. He was alive, but he was as a little child unable to see for himself, unable to walk for himself.
Those who were there were commanded to help him. So, now we want to see the next principle we must learn from our text. That is, why Jesus told those who stood by, "Loose him, and let him go." Why was it that Jesus used His authority over death and the grave to raise Lazarus from death, yet left him bound hand and foot with these graveclothes? The reason is obvious, and I want you to rightly understand this. The Lord never works needless miracles.
Many religions today think God is going to do miracles at the snap of their fingers as though God becomes their bellboy. We need to understand that this is not the way of the Lord. What we need to see is that the Lord never works a needless miracle to do what we are able to do by the obedience of faith. The Lord works in you to will and to do. That is a miracle, but He doesn't do the doing for you.
Even in performing a miracle our Saviour always used means to their very verge. Even when He performed a miracle, the Lord Jesus didn't roll away the stone and do the whole thing Himself. The Lord Jesus told those who stood by, "Take ye away the stone." By obedience of faith, we must walk in the revealed will of God.
Let's consider another example when Jesus fed the multitude. I want you to see and understand this principle because it is so important. We don't look to the Lord to do some miracle while we sit and watch. The need is that we obey and use every means that the Lord has provided; we ask His blessing upon it.
When the Lord fed the multitude, the disciples obeyed. He used all available means to perform the miracle. We read in JOH 6:10-11, "And Jesus said, Make the men sit down." He had already reasoned with the disciples, and they had reasoned with Him that two hundred pennyworth wouldn't buy enough bread. They had to obey against all human reasoning and have the people sit down.
"Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. [First, there was obedience.] And Jesus took the loaves."
The Lord Jesus could have, by speaking a word, furnished enough bread to feed the multitude. He could have performed a miracle without using the means, but He used all the available means. There were five loaves; He used those five loaves. There were fishes, and He used the fishes. He broke the bread. He gave thanks. He broke the bread and it multiplied in His hands. He put it in the hands of His disciples, and it multiplied as they brought it to the multitude. The multitude ate and it multiplied in their bodies.
A miracle was brought forth as they obeyed. It is important that we understand these principles, that we don't wait for the Lord to do miracles while we sit back fatalistically waiting for the Lord to do something. We must use every means the Lord provides.
Now, in the way of salvation, you and I are not able to save ourselves. You and I are not able to work quickening grace in our own souls, but we have the means.
"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." JOH 5:39. If we are not willing to obey and search the Scriptures, we needn't wonder why we remain spiritually dead, because we have not acted by the obedience of faith. We have not acted upon the means that He has given us. The Lord used the means available at the time. He used the loaves. He used the fishes. He used the people at Lazarus' grave site.
Now, when Jesus came to the grave of Lazarus, He could have removed the stone with a miracle, however, the bystanders were capable of doing so. It is important that we see this. That which we are capable of doing, we cannot ask the Lord to do. Do you know why? He wants us to act by the obedience of faith. We may not ask the Lord to do that which He has opened the door and enabled us to do. He told them, "Take ye away the stone." (JOH 11:39).
So, when Jesus had effected the miracle of calling Lazarus from death unto life, He did not perform a needless miracle in removing the graveclothes. Do you see the principle that the Lord is teaching us in this miracle? The Lord Jesus did not, by a miracle, remove the graveclothes. Those who were standing by were capable of doing it. Therefore, He said, "Loose him, and let him go."
While we can only look to the life-giving Lord to quicken a dead soul, we do not fold our arms and fatalistically claim inability. By the obedience of faith we must put every available means into use, and the Lord demands that we do this.
So, the principle taught herein is that there are things we can and must do before a sinner is quickened. Now, I don't want to be misquoted as saying that we have a religion of works. We know that it is by God's grace alone that a soul is quickened. However, there are things we can do, and we are called upon and we must do before a sinner is quickened. The Lord Jesus told them before Lazarus was spoken into life, "Take ye away the stone." In other words, we must remove all obstacles that would cause someone to continue in sin. We must remove every occasion that we are able to remove to cause them to live in sin. Then after the quickening, we are also called upon, "Loose him, and let him go." There are things we can do after the quickening.
We are to be imitators of Christ. What did Christ do? I want you to see how His heart went out with love. Now this was before He quickened Lazarus. So, as we imitate this, do our hearts burn with love for those who are still dead in sin? Are we exercised before the throne of grace where our heart burns for them? Do we have no rest, laying their needs and their life and their spiritual life before the Lord? We must imitate the Lord Jesus. He had a heart of love. We see in JOH 11:5, "Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus."
After a long journey He consoled the grieving ones with words of comfort. In JOH 11:23, "Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again." In other words, we must be able to speak with them. We must be able to urge them. I want you to see how Jesus wept. He groaned in spirit. He prayed. All these things were before the miracle of quickening. These are things we must do, if our hearts are truly laboring over those loved ones. Are we in travail until they have Christ formed in them? In other words, is our heart truly laboring for them before the throne of grace? These things we can do.
Do we have a brother or sister who is still walking under the power of spiritual death? Mary and Martha made their concerns known to their Master. It is so important that we understand this. We need to follow the principles that are taught. They made their needs known to their Master.
JOH 11:3 says, "Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." They came pleading His love. They didn't come pleading sympathy for themselves or any worthiness in Lazarus, but "he whom thou lovest is sick." Do you see the basis that we need to come before the Lord, pleading for those who are yet unconverted?
In addition to this, when we call on our Saviour to quicken them, we must express our confident faith. MAT 21:22 says, "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." The man who was sick of the palsy was borne by four men. They came on the top of the roof and broke up the roof to let him down. Jesus said in LUK 5:20, "And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee."
When the Lord Jesus saw their faith, he said, Take up thy bed and walk. It was when the Lord Jesus saw the faith of those who carried him. When the Lord sees that you and I carry our loved ones by faith. We see this principle is taught in JOH 11:22 when Martha said to Jesus, before Lazarus was quickened, "But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee." She had faith to believe that He had power to do whatever He would ask God for. We must come before the Lord with faith, even though we see that it is absolutely impossible from our side. That doesn't give us license to sit on a bed of ease, but it should cause us to come with spirits of travail.
The next principle we need to consider, which our text teaches, is our duty to those whom the Lord has quickened. Jesus said, "Loose him, and let him go." We need to understand that when a man or a woman or a child is quickened by the grace of God, they are not brought into the spiritual world as mature adults. They are babes. They yet have all of these things of the grave; the stench of spiritual death is still upon them. All they have is a new desire. All that has been altered is that they now desire to do the will of God. You and I need to work with them and give them to see the depravity of the heart. We need to help them understand and to realize the blindness that we are all in by nature. We have to be instructors and teach them.
Again we see two important things to consider. Our Saviour does not work needless miracles. We cannot expect the Lord to do a miracle when it is within our power to do it. We must instruct and labor to deliver them, to work with them and to see and to understand the will of God, and the places where they are still not delivered from all their sins.
I have found in my own experience, as many others have, that as we grow in grace we learn to see more and more what is sinful in our lives and in our hearts. The Lord had a quarrel with Ephraim, and Ephraim was as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. Have you ever thought about a bullock that is unaccustomed to the yoke being put to work alongside one that is accustomed to the yoke? Sometimes they fight or struggle to get away, but their necks are tied to the yoke.
Our heart of rebellion wants to come against the things of the Lord, His Providence, wants to come against His teachings. If we come under the yoke of Christ, and we are brought into His service, then we are absolutely summoned. Not only that, but we are arrested and placed under His yoke, and we do not get away.
One who is born spiritually needs much training and encouragement. They need much feeding. They are yet lambs. They are not fully-grown. The Lord does not work a needless miracle in these areas. We must take time to teach, to train and to tutor those who are newborn Christians. Think back in our own experience. Don't we see how others have taken time to help lead us to see the will of God? How have others have helped us to understand where we need to change our attitudes? Where we need to stop being critical? Where we need to stop being hateful and bitter? These things can still be there. These graveclothes, this stench of death, has not been fully removed because we are born again. These are things we need to struggle with our whole life long.
We need to understand these principles as read the Scriptures. We come together for what reason? Look at HEB 3:13-17, "But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if [we are made partakers of Christ, if] we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?"
In other words, those who remained rebellious and refused to repent remained in the wilderness. We must admonish one another. We must exhort one another. We must loose those graveclothes and let them go.
Look at HEB 10:22-25, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: [loose him and let him go. We see how we must provoke one another unto good works.] Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
Now, some are still blindfolded by the napkin of ignorance. We who have become more mature in grace can counsel and comfort them. See what the Lord Jesus admonished the Apostle Peter in LUK 22:31-32. "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."
The Lord is bringing Peter through the schools of Christ to qualify him for the eldership. Do you know what that is? The same thing that we read of the Lord Jesus in HEB 4, He came to where? What happened? Beginning in Verse 14 we read, "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
Jesus had to go through these things so He could intimately relate to all of our weaknesses and all of our fall. The Apostle Peter was being prepared for the eldership, and how can a man be an elder if he doesn't understand the trials and the circumstances that the flock comes under. If an elder has no understanding and no knowledge of the power of sin or the foolishness of pride, how can he comfort and strengthen the brethren? How can he lift up those who have fallen? How can he encourage them and restore them back in the faith if he is a novice, if he has no experience in this himself?
The Lord is telling you and I who have some maturity in grace that we should understand the weaknesses of those who are yet babes in Christ and are yet struggling with the powers of sin. Unless we can tell of how we suffered with overcome such things as covetousness, bitterness, and pride, we can't tell how the Lord converted us. I can't explain that I no longer have such bitterness in my heart because I now have the grace to give it over to the Lord. Do you see now these graveclothes must be removed? The Lord does that, but He uses you and me as His instruments to do it.
The Lord used a mature Christian to remove the napkin of ignorance from the eyes of Saul of Tarsus. The Lord could have done this, but He does not perform needless miracles. Not only that but He uses the brethren to strengthen each other. Look at ACT 9: 10-12 to see how He used one of His mature Christians to remove that napkin of ignorance from the eyes of Saul of Tarsus. "And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight."
The Lord uses His means. He uses His servants. He will use you and me to remove the graveclothes from those whom He has already quickened. The Apostle Paul now had met Jesus in the way. He had already come to a change of heart. He had already asked in ACT 9:6 "And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Paul was blind. He still had that napkin of ignorance on his face. Those graveclothes were still there, and now the Lord sends Ananias who would take those graveclothes away.
When the Lord used Ananias to loose Saul, and let him go of his blind ignorance, he acted upon the obedience of faith. I want you to see what the Lord was teaching Ananias. Look at ACT 9:13-14, "Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name." Ananias understood how Saul was persecuting Christ's followers.
Let's consider the example of Cornelius; ACT 10:3-5 says, "He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter."
His alms, his prayers reveal that he was a quickened soul. They had come up before God and had been brought for a memorial, and now God tells Cornelius to send for Simon Peter.
So, how did the Lord use Peter to remove the graveclothes of ignorance and prejudice from Cornelius and his entire household? How did He do it? Look at ACT 10:33-36, "Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. [The Lord used Peter to remove the graveclothes of ignorance from the eyes of Cornelius.] Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. [Isn't that a powerful gospel message? This is the gospel message that Peter was called by the Lord to deliver to Cornelius.] The Word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)."
It is interesting that the Lord was teaching Peter while Peter was teaching Cornelius. Peter had always thought that the Gentiles did not have the gift of grace, and now here he said that he perceives. "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons."
Now, he shows the need of working righteousness and of the fear of the Lord. He comes in and preaches Jesus Christ and points out that the perfect righteousness of Christ, the imputed righteousness of Christ, is the basis by which we stand righteous before God.
Cornelius was a godly man. Cornelius did much alms. He labored in the law of love. He loved his neighbor as himself. Cornelius loved the Lord, but Peter had to now come and remove these graveclothes of ignorance and to teach him the gospel as it is in Jesus Christ that Cornelius did not understand even though he had been quickened, even though he had grace in his heart. The Lord sent Peter. Do you see how important that is that Jesus said in our text, "Loose him and let him go?"
Now the Lord certainly, with the blink of an eye, could have every person know the Bible inside and out and the whole way of salvation. However, in His wisdom He has chosen that we must walk by the obedience of faith and come to understand that in every nation he accepts him that feareth Him and worketh righteousness.
How are you and I going to work righteousness except through the obedience of faith?
The wealthy Ethiopian was reading the book of Isaiah as he rode in his chariot, but he did not understand what he read until the Spirit sent Philip to remove the graveclothes of ignorance as we see in ACT 8:30-39. The thing we need to see, all the way through, is that God had quickened the Ethiopian. The man was a praying man, but the Spirit sent Philip to remove the graveclothes, to teach him.
I want you to see the principles that this teaches us. When the prodigal son arose and came to his father, the father did not send a servant to go meet him. There are things we have to sort out. The Lord does His work, however He also sends His servants to do their work. We may not put ourselves in the seat of God.
A man came to me a month ago; he had gone to the hospital to see a friend of his who was dying. He said, "I went over there and got her sins forgiven." I asked, "How did you do it?" "Well," he said, "she had never been to church in her life, but isn't it true that anything we do in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that God has to do it?" I answered, "God doesn't have to do anything." Adding, "There is no scriptural authority, absolutely none, that says you have power to forgive anyone their sins. No human being has such power. The Lord does not allow us to act in His place. However, He has a place where we must function."
Now, watch this. The father of the prodigal did not send a servant to meet his son. Look at LUK 15:20, "And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."
That portion of the reconciliation that takes place between a sinner and the Holy God, we cannot replace with a man. That reconciliation, that embrace, contained a pardon. I have heard a lot of people ask, "Well have you had a pardon? Has the Lord pardoned your sins?" Now, let me ask you, "Have you ever known a time that the Lord has embraced you with the embraces of His love? There is a pardon in that." I learned that one time with one of my own relatives. There had been a quarrel and when the quarrel was settled, there wasn't a word said. There wasn't a word of accusation. There wasn't a word of pardon. There was an embrace, and that embrace contained a pardon. That embrace contained a confession. That embrace contained it all.
That was true with the prodigal son. He said he would arise, go, and say to his father, but when he got there there wasn't a word spoken. His father saw him and he went and he had compassion on him. He ran and he fell on his neck and he kissed him. That embrace of the father's love contained a pardon. It contained forgiveness. It was all taken in consideration of all the confession he was going to make. There wasn't a word spoken.
The Father did this act Himself. It was the Father personally who received, forgave and restored His wayward son. You and I cannot forgive a man his sins. You and I cannot receive him in Christ. You and I cannot restore him from spiritual death unto spiritual life. The Father did that. Now, watch this. He restored his wayward son, but see what was all delegated to his servants!
LUK 15:22-24 explains, "But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet." Now we get into the area of what we must do.
This is in effect what the Lord Jesus told Peter in LUK 22:32. "and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."
When you and I start to understand some spiritual maturity, we are to embrace those little ones of the flock of Christ. Put shoes on their feet. In other words, Help them to pick out the right way, and direct them in the Word and in the way of Christ. Show them where that robe of righteousness is, and help them to put on the robe of Christ's righteousness, that they not labor in their own righteousness to stand righteous before God. We must show them and we must teach them.
The prodigal son's father said, "And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry." Some people seem to believe depression is a form of godliness. Does that sound like a depressing reception for the prodigal? No.
Find the joy that there is in serving the Lord. Help the new Christian to understand the joy. Christianity is not a gloomy place. No person on the face of the whole earth has a right understanding of true liberty and joy outside of those who have grace in their souls. Do you know why people always resort to entertainment and to all these things? There's a vacuum in the heart of man that was created by the loss of the image of God. People go out to try to fill that vacuum with all this entertainment and covetousness and all these material things. The further they go, the emptier they are.
The Christian is the only one who truly knows what it is to be made whole, to be made completely whole, to have true joy. Do you know why? That vacuum is perfectly filled because that image of God is being restored in the soul. There is again that unconditional surrender to the will of God. There is that perfect submission to the Father and all His requirements, all His commandments. "For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry." LUK 15:24
The father could well have done all this himself, but he wanted all those who faithfully serve him to demonstrate their forgiveness as well. If you harbor hatred in your heart and bitterness, you are only a stumbling block to the man you are trying to help. Our Father wants us to serve this one who had been dead and is now alive, ministering to his needs, we thereby join with one accord in the joyful reception of this one who was dead, but is now alive.
Now the joyful occasion was not only to remove all those graveclothes, but also that this one who was lost, and now is found might be clothed with the best robe. We not only want to remove the graveclothes, but we want to see them robed in that perfect robe of Christ's righteousness. We need to minister to their spiritual needs.
What a blessed symbol this is of that final marriage union with Christ and His bride that He will have His servants join in that joyful occasion. On that blessed day, when Christ and His bride are brought into that final marriage union, then what we will see is that His servants will join in that joyful occasion, as He says to His servants, "Bring forth the best robe."
What is the best robe? Don't curse, but bless. Speak well of them who speak evil of you. When we bring forth the best robe, we are trying to see something the other person has done that I can commend him for. If all I am doing is looking at another person's faults and all I am doing is being critical and seeing if I can find something to bring an accusation, then I am not bringing forth the best robe.
Instead we are to do as Jesus said in MAT 25: 35, "For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in." They came back and asked when they did that. They don't take any credit for it. Now you and I must bring forth the best robe. We must show the best of their righteousness. We show praise. In PHI 4:8 we are admonished, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Going back to the parable of the prodigal son, when they were making merry, the elder brother came in and he was critical. Oh, but his brother had wasted all his goods, and he did this, and he and he and he, and I and I and I served all these years and I get nothing. You don't see the older brother bringing forth the best robe. The lesson we are to learn is that we don't point a finger and say, "Well, he sinned here and he sinned there and he sinned there" and start passing judgment. We put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. We help him back in the strait and narrow way. Why? If we had a little glimpse into our own hearts, we have not left one stone to throw.
At that blessed marriage union Jesus will have His servants join in that joyful occasion, where we will be able to come and bring forth that best robe and put in on him and a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet.
Even as Christ said concerning those who witnessed the quickening of Lazarus, so He says to you and me concerning every new believer as he comes forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was bound about with a napkin, "Loose him, and let him go." Don't bind him with a bunch of rituals and a bunch of manmade commandments. "Loose him and let him go."
The act of raising Lazarus from the dead points to the Person of Christ as the resurrection and the life, that is, "that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so [the whole family of God may] also ... walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection" as we see in ROM 6:4-5.
So, our text says in JOH 11:44, "And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go." Amen.
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VERY, VERY BEAUTIFUL AND ENLIGHTENING MESSAGE!! SO MUCH REVELATION! THANKS FOR SHARING.
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