The Power Of Christ’s Presence
“Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said unto Peter, It is the Lord.”
I AM going to speak, on this occasion, to my Brothers and Sisters who are workers for Christ. When our Lord met His Apostles by the lake and provided for them that memorable meal, He did not think it out of place to say to Peter, “Feed My lambs; feed My sheep.” These practical exhortations were regarded by Him as quite in keeping with holy fellowship and so, though we are coming to the Communion Table at the close of this service, I feel that I am only right in speaking upon practical matters to you, my fellow laborers and fellow soldiers in the work and warfare of Christ. And I pray that God will, through me, speak to all here who love our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
You know that we read in the Gospels according to Luke and John, of two miraculous draughts of fishes. [See Sermon #443, Volume 8–THE TWO DRAUGHTS OF FISHES–Read/download the entire sermon, free of charge, at .] The one that is recorded in this Chapter from which our text is taken was, in several respects, similar to that which was worked at an earlier period of our Lord’s history.
Before He called His Apostles, He worked the miracle of giving them a great haul of fish after they had toiled all the night and had taken nothing. And then, after He had died upon the Cross and risen from the grave, He repeated the miracle in almost identical fashion. I think there was a great lesson which our Savior intended His disciples to learn from that repetition. The miracle was a picture–and He wanted them to look upon it and catch the idea it was meant to convey–and as they had probably not all caught it the first time, He held the picture up before them again, that they might have another opportunity of learning the lesson which He had intended it to teach them.
You notice that in both instances they had toiled–they had toiled all the night–but they had toiled in vain. The night was the best season for fishing, as it still is. They had toiled in the place where they had often caught fish before, for they were experienced fishermen, apt at their craft. Yet after using all the means that had been successful at other times, they were unsuccessful, for they had taken nothing. They had toiled perseveringly, too, for it was not only at night thatthey had toiled, but all the night. From the time when they pushed forth from the shore, in the moonlight, until themorning star warned them of the dawning of the new day, they had toiled. Yet they had taken nothing.
This teaches us that we may work for Christ and try to win souls for Him–and do that work at the best time, in the best way and even persevere in doing it–and yet be unsuccessful. We must be unsuccessful if, like the disciples, we are laboring without the Master’s Presence. In both instances, the turning-point was when the Master came. On the first occasion, He borrowed Peter’s boat and preached a sermon from it to the crowd upon the shore. And then He said to Peter, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught.” In the second case, He bade the disciples, “cast the net on the right side of the ship.” But in both instances it was the appearance of Jesus that filled the net and filled it so miraculously that the despairing toilers of the night realized that Someone who was more than man had spoken to them–and they fell down to worship Him as Divine. So whenever Jesus comes to His workers, however unsuccessful they may have been, they are sure to succeed when He is there! Yes, and to succeed beyond their own expectations–just as the disciples were surprised that by the same hands which all night had taken nothing, 153 great fishes should be taken–and out of the same nets which were empty all the night, (save here and there a piece of tangled weed to mock their hopes), there should come so many great fishes upon which they and others might be feasted to their full! The Apostles could not do anything without their Lord and neither can we–so the main point for us to remember is that we need Jesus Christ to come into our midst–and this point I shall try to drive home with all my might, praying God the Holy Spirit to stir up the hearts of His people so that they may have a great longing to be useful in the winning of souls and realize that this can only be achieved by those who enjoy true fellowship with Christ!
- I want, first, to show THE DISSIMILARITY AND THE SIMILARITY OF OUR POSITION TO THAT OF THE APOSTLES UPON THIS OCCASION.
First, there was a dissimilarity in which the advantage is altogether on our side. The Apostle Peter and his brethrenhad been fishing unsuccessfully, but they had not been commanded to fish. They may or may not have been right in fishing at that time, but at any rate, they were doing it on their own account. Peter said, “I am going fishing.” It was his own work, done entirely in accordance with his own will–Christ had not bidden him go fishing. But in our case, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we have our Lord’s commission, “Go you into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” We have received this Divine commission, so that when we preach the Gospel, we are not fishing as amateurs or self-sent volunteers, but as those who are sent by the Most High to do His bidding. When He commissions anyone, there is a sort of implied guarantee that He will give him success. At any rate, He will not send His servant upon a fool’s errand, but by some means or other, He who gives the authority will be sure to give the power that is needed to go with it. “Wisdom is justified of all her children.” You, dear Brothers and Sisters, in trying to serve God, each of you in yourproper sphere, have done what you were sent to do, for Jesus has said to you as He said to His disciples, “As My Father has sent Me, even so send I you.” Remember that passage almost at the end of the Revelation, “Let him that hears, say, Come.” Having heard the Gospel, you have tried to say, “Come,” to the people and you have not gone beyond your commission in doing so, for you were commanded to do it! Every Believer is a priest–under the Christian dispensation there is no other priesthood save that of our Lord Jesus Christ and that which is common to every Believer in Him. So when you, having believed on Him, have gone to speak of Him to others, you have only exercised that royal priesthood which is rightly yours, for He “has made us kings and priests unto God.” So, first, the Apostles went fishing without having any commission to fish and, therefore, they were unsuccessful. But we have an advantage over them because in the Gospel fishery, every true child of God who casts the net is commissioned by his Master to do so!
The disciples also had not their Master with them. All the night when they were casting the net and drawing it in, and finding nothing in it, they were by themselves. But that is not the case with us. As a Church we can say that we have had the Master’s Presence with us these many years. Oftentimes in our assemblies we have been as sure of His Presence as we can ever be sure of anything! Our hearts have been rejoiced, purified and sanctified by gazing upon Him by faith. There have been Prayer Meetings in which I hope all of us have felt bowed down and humbled like Peter was when the Master was in his boat. And there have been times of solemn rejoicing over converted sinners in which the Lord Jesus has been manifestly in our midst! His promise, “Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world,” has been most graciously fulfilled in our experience and we, therefore, bless the Savior that we have not to wait for Him to come to us, for He has long been with us and has never left us! These many years the simple preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified has filled this House of Prayer as it is tonight. People know that there is nothing to be heard here but the old, old story “of the Crucified Savior, yet let the weather be as rigorous as it may, still will the crowds come to hear the Word of the Lord–and in this we do rejoice and evermore will rejoice! In this respect, also, we have the advantage over the fishermen on the Sea of Galilee.
And so we have in another point–because the Master was not with them, they caught nothing–but it cannot be said of us that we have taken nothing. I do not know that it would be right for us to try to compute how many souls have professed to have found the Savior during the years in which we have worked together, but I believe, Brothers, we may say this to the Glory of God and to the honor of the simple Gospel that we have preached–the number who have joined this Church, alone, can only be spoken of by thousands. And if we were to speak of tens of thousands, yes, and many tens of thousands who here and elsewhere have found the Savior under the Word preached by us, we would not exaggerate in the least. We put the crown upon the head of our Master, but what joy we feel that it has been so! Suppose that He had left us? Vain would it have been for us to preach the Word, even with earnestness, for earnestness, alone, will not convert souls. There must be the Presence of Jesus to bless men–and it has been with us, year after year, even unto this day, glory be to His holy name! [The years referred to number approximately 20.]
In these points, then, our case is dissimilar to that of the Apostles when they were toiling all the night and had taken nothing.
But we are precisely like the Apostles in certain other points, the first of which is that we would have taken nothing if the Master had not helped us. No child would have come from the Sunday school to say, “I love the Savior and wish to confess my faith in Him and to unite with the Church here.” No young woman would have come out of that large and blessed Bible class if the Lord had not put the right words into the lips of the Sister who speaks for Him there. No young man would have been converted in our senior classes if the Spirit of God had not gone with the conductors. And from this pulpit no Word of Life would have been spoken if it had not been first given to us by God and then sent home to the hearts of our hearers by the Holy Spirit. We would have “taken nothing” without our Lord!
And even now, Brothers and Sisters, our success is wonderfully like the non-success of the Apostles, for we have scarcely taken anything in comparison with what still needs to be taken! Even when we speak of tens of thousands converted, what are they in comparison with the millions all around us in this vast city? When God gives us an increase of a hundred or a 120 in a month, we are glad and thankful, but large as those numbers are, what are they compared with the perishing myriads of London alone? Why should we not have 3,000 converts in a day as on the day of Pentecost? Why is it that our Churches are not multiplied till they cover this city in every part? Why does not the old Church of Christ, (for such we are), the old Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, come more to the front instead of lingering in the background? It is because we have not yet the fullness of the Master’s power as we must have it–and desire to have it to the praise of His Glory! Christ’s Presence, if He would but come among us in the fullness of His strength, would do so much more for us than anything that we have ever seen–that we would be as much astounded by the increase as the Apostles were by the two great draughts of fishes! Christ had but to will it and the fish came swimming in shoals to the net–and He has but to will it and souls will be converted by millions to Himself and His Gospel! He had but to give His disciples the directions to where to cast the net and the same net that had been empty would become full. And He has but to teach His ministers how to preach, and touch their lips with a burning coal off the altar to fire them with a Pentecostal enthusiasm–and they would speak in a way in which as yet they have never spoken and with a power they have never yet experienced! Such days are promised and they will surely come. We are not straitened in God. We are straitened in ourselves. If we have not those glorious days of ingathering, it is because some sin of ours still keeps the Master’s Glory from us. Oh, let us turn to Him and may He graciously turn to us!–
“Let our mutual love be fervent,
Make us prevalent in prayers!
Let each one esteemed Your servant
Shun the world’s bewitching snares,
Lord, revive us,
All our help must come from You!”
II. Now, secondly, I have to speak upon THE MEANS WHICH WE ARE TO USE SO AS TO GAIN OUR MASTER’S PRESENCE. I have tried to show you that all our success must come from Him and all that He gives us must be ascribed to Him. So how can we secure His Presence? We have it in a measure–how can we have it more fully?
Well, let us always remember that He comes just where He wills to come. There is absolute Sovereignty about thework of Christ in the Kingdom of His Grace. As the wind blows where it wishes, so does the Spirit of God work wherever He pleases. I do not think that we can always account for the great success of one preacher and the non-success of another by anything that we can see. We have to fall back upon the Sovereignty of God and say, “God wills it and, therefore, it is.” He will have us know that Sovereignty is His Divine prerogative. He has the key of David–He opens and no man shuts. He shuts and no man opens. If He wills it, the rain shall descend steadily to make fat the fields. But if He wills it, He can restrain the dew of Heaven until the most fertile Church shall become barren as the mountains of Gilboa! He exercises His power not according to
our will, but according to His own will–we must never forget that.
At the same time, what course should we take in order to secure His Presence? I reply, first, that we had better go onwith our work for Him. If we want Christ to bless us and we are doing work for Him, we had better keep on steadily doing it. These disciples of His had been fishing all night. Perhaps if they had not fished at night Christ would not have given them fish in the daytime. He does not often come to bless idlers–He acts Sovereignly, as I have said, but He generally gives His blessing to those Churches that do the most for Him. I have always found that an earnest Gospel ministry and a prayerfully united Church will have God’s blessing when others will not have it. Go on, Sunday school teachers, go on, tract distributors! Go on, Evangelists–go on, all of you who are laboring for Christ–keep, each one, to his own service and even if it has been night with you and you have taken nothing, still keep on at your toil! Probably the best way to bring the Master to you is to labor for Him with all your might.
Sometimes, however, it will be necessary for us to wash or mend our nets. In the miracle recorded by Luke, we findthat the fishermen, after toiling all night, were washing their nets–and either on that occasion, or on a similar one, some of them were mending their nets. Every Church needs to do that and every Church member, every Christian worker needs to do that. The preacher will do well to adopt another style–to study more diligently and to make himself more proficient in the knowledge of the Word. Sunday school teachers must more carefully study the lessons for their classes and go to their scholars better prepared for their work. Your nets will often need washing and mending if you are to be fishers of men–and all of you will be more likely to get the Master’s blessing if you pay more attention to the means you are using for doing good in His service! Christ does not want slovenly work, nor is He likely to bless those who think that any kind of service will do for Him. I have heard of a preacher who thought that whatever came first into his head was good enough for his people. On one occasion, he informed one of his officers, at the end of his sermon, that he had never thought of it before he entered the pulpit. And the good Elder replied, “I thought so while listening to you. I thought that if you had considered it beforehand, you would never have said what you did.” We all need to wash and mend our nets–I mean that we all need to do Christ’s work in the best possible way–and that is the way in which we are most likely to be privileged with His Presence.
On that first occasion, the fishermen had been listening to Christ’s words, for they had, at His request, turned their boat into a pulpit in which He sat down and taught the people who stood on the shore. Was there any connection between that incident and the great haul of fish? I think there was and that if they had not granted Christ’s request, and listened to His sermon, He would not have blessed them with that multitude of fish. At all events, I know that a worker will always be all the better for waiting a while and sitting as a learner at Christ’s feet–reading the Word for Himself, or listening to the Truth as it is preached by some God-sent minister. The message may strike a keynote in your heart which shall so influence your whole life that, henceforth, you shall be in a different condition and more likely to be blessed of the Most High.
Do you ask, “What is there that will bring Christ to a Church and keep Him there?” I reply, in a word, prayer.There is no force in nature that is equal to the power of prayer! The law of gravitation holds the planets in their orbits and links the sun to all the spheres that circle round him, but prayer has before now made gravitation, itself, cease to exert its energy! “Sun, stand you still upon Gibeon,” said Joshua–who had first spoken to the Lord about the matter–“and you, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon”–and sun and moon stood still! We speak that which, to many nowadays, only causes ridicule, but to our minds it seems ridiculous to doubt that God listens to the voice of men. When men are made in the image of God–twice-made and so made His children–surely their believing prayers shall move the heart of their heavenly Father! You remember what Christ said to His disciples, in His Sermon on the Mount? “If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” Of course He will listen to the voices of those whom He so dearly loves! You know, Beloved, that there is power in prayer. When Believers meet together and unitedly cry, “Lord, revive Your work. Put more power into the ministry. Make the hearts of Your people to be more full of love and zeal. Save the ungodly. Awaken the unconcerned!”–It will be done. It is not with us merely a matter of hope that earnest prayer will bring blessing to the Church and to the world–it is a matter of fact it must be so! The laws of Nature may be suspended, but laws that appertain to God’s own Character for truth and faithfulness cannot be suspended. He would not be God if He did not answer prayer! His own promises bind Him to do so. O you that doubt Him, try Him! If any of you question the power of prayer, see what has already been done by it. As for you who are the servants of the living God and who have access to His Mercy Seat, you have but to ask and to receive–you have but to seek and to find–you have but to knock and the door shall be opened to you! Brothers and Sisters in Christ, join one another in praying Christ to come into our midst! Do pray for a blessing, pray mightily for it–and rest not day nor night till that blessing comes!
We must, however, add to prayer the waiting for that blessing that we seek. After Christ had ascended to Heaven,His disciples went to an upper room and waited there till the Holy Spirit was given to them on the day of Pentecost. They did not sit there thinking that perhaps the promised blessing might come, or might not come, but there they waited till they heard the “sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind” and the “cloven tongues, like as of fire, sat upon each of them.” So let us come together in our assemblies expecting the blessing which the Lord has promised, for the blessingwill certainly come if we believingly expect it. “Open your mouth wide,” says God, “and I will fill it!” Oh, for the capacity to believe God, for assuredly God will never dishonor our faith!
And then, to our expectation, we must add the opening of our own hearts to receive the blessing. We want the Saviorto bless us and He says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with Me.” He is ready to bless you, Beloved–are you ready to be blessed by Him? O you that love Him, fling wide the doors of your heart and ask Him to come in! He has bought you with His heart’s blood–will you not give Him your heart’s best love? He is Himself your Beloved, your Husband, your All-inAll, so treat Him not as a stranger. Let Him not stand and knock any longer, but open wide the door and bid Him come in! Is it your will, dear Brothers and Sisters, to receive Him? Do you really want Him? Do you long for more of Him? You will have to be very prayerful and very careful if He does come to you, for He is a jealous lover–and when He dwells in the heart, He looks with severe eyes upon anything contrary to His will that is done by His own dear ones–just as a king will tolerate in a stranger what he would not endure from a courtier. I am afraid we sometimes pray for sanctification and do not really wish for it–and I am also afraid that we sometimes ask for a great blessing and do not really wish for it. Do you believe that Christ can come to us and bless us? Are you living as if you expected Him to come to you? If so, when He comes you will be overawed by the majesty of His Presence–and you will say with John, “It is the Lord.” As we hear of blessing in the Sunday school, we shall say, “It is the Lord.” As we hear of the work of Grace in the Bible classes, we shall say, “It is the Lord.” And at every Church Meeting, as we hear the stories of those who have been brought to believe in Jesus, we shall say, “It is the Lord,” for no one else could have worked so blessed a work in our midst!
I wish I knew how to put this subject before you so that every believing heart would be affected by it to the highest possible degree–but I do not–and therefore, as we are coming to the Communion Table, I will try to use the sacred feast to stir up you who are serving Christ to pray for more of His Presence. You have here before you the memorials of His love to you. He gave His body to be broken for you, His heart to be pierced for you. Has Christ done all this for you and will you not do much for Him? You are saved, your sins are covered, you are His dear child–then will you not spend and be spent for Him? If the Master were to come and stand here tonight instead of me–and show you His pierced hands and feet and then were to call you, His own people, up, one by one and put such questions as these to you, (I will give you the questions directly)–I wonder how you would feel? You would come up these stairs dazzled with His beauty and overwhelmed with His love as He gazed upon you! And then He would say to each one of you, “My blood-bought one, what are you doing for Me? Are you feeding My sheep? Are you feeding My lambs?” I think I see you blush and hear you reply, “My dear Master, I have been with some of Your lambs this afternoon.” “But did you really feed them?” “I spent a happy hour with them.” “Well but did you feed them?” “I endeavored to do so, good Master, but I am ashamed to say that I did not feed them as I should have done.” “But did you feed them as My lambs, and as I would have fed them? Did you love them? Did you speak affectionately to them? Did you tell them about Me? Did you try to bring them to Me? Did you pray over them? Did you send them away feeling that their teacher longed that they should all know the Savior?”
Well, the Master is not here in bodily Presence and I will not put such questions to you, but I would like you to put them to yourselves and to think that you hear the Master putting them to you, even as of old He said, “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me?” I think I hear Him call up some Brother and say to Him, “You who are redeemed by My precious blood, what have you done for Me?” I think I see you blush as He says to you again, “What have you done for Me?” At last you say, “I am a member of the Church.” “But what have you done for Me?” “I sometimes put something into the offering box.” “But what have you done for Me?” He shows His hands, lays bare His side and says, “I suffered this for you–what have you done for Me?” I fear that there are some members of this Church who would not like to be put to such a test as that! And for my own part, I would desire to say to the Master, “Give me a few more years in which to serve You better and give me more Grace that I may be more diligent in the service that You have allotted to me.” And I pray you, beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ, if you feel that you must present the same prayer, make this your solemn resolution that, by His Spirit’s help, you will lay yourselves out–body, soul and spirit–for His dear sake.
But, alas, there are some of you who do not love Him at all! Some of you to whom the Christ of God is quite a stranger. Oh, that your hearts were changed! For remember that He will soon come in His Glory and all His holy angels with Him! And you who will not now kiss the silver scepter of Mercy that He holds out to you in the preaching of the Gospel, must then feel the weight of that iron rod of Justice with which He will break the ungodly and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessels! Be wise, therefore, and trust the Savior now! The Lord grant that you may do so and then, having trusted Him for yourself, may you serve Him with all your heart and soul as long as you live on this earth–and then go to join that great multitude which no man can number of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues who stand before the Throne of God and before the Lamb–forever ascribing their salvation to His Grace!
Have you ever heard the story of the poor man, in deep distress of mind, who one night dreamed a dream? He found himself outside the gates of Heaven and he sat down and wept, for he longed to enter. Presently he heard sweet music and saw a company of people approaching with palm branches in their hands. He asked who they were and one of them said that they were the noble army of martyrs coming to take their thrones. Then he wept much and said, “I cannot enter with you.” While he sat mourning, he heard the trumpet sound, again, and another company came along singing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” He said to them, “Who are you?” They replied, “We are the goodly fellowship of the Prophets and Apostles.” And he wept again, for he said, “I cannot enter with you.” Presently another company came, chanting the praises of the Grace of God. And he said, “Who are you?” They answered, “We are the preachers of the Word, and the deacons and elders of the Church.” Again he said, “I cannot enter with you.” He sat down and wept till, by-and-by, he saw a larger company coming, marching like an exceedingly great army, and singing sweetly as they came. In the very front rank was the woman that was a sinner, with her rich voice leading the song. And near her was the thief who, at the last, had prayed, “Lord, remember me.” They came along right jubilantly and he asked them, “Who are you?” And they answered, “We are the company of great sinners, saved by great mercy.” At once he said, “I can go in with you!”
And, Brothers and Sisters, that is the company to which you and I belong! And when we enter Heaven, they will welcome us just as heartily as they did the martyrs, the Prophets and the Apostles! Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners–and when sinners repent, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God, and joy in the heart of God, Himself, because they have sought His pardoning mercy! If any of you are not saved, it is not because there is any lack of mercy in the heart of God! If you perish, it is not for want of an open door set before you! So come in while you may!