Life in the Secret Place

Rom. 14:17.---' The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.'

Paul declares that the Kingdom of God is not 'eating and drinking'; it is not to be determined by one or two external acts, in which we participate or from which we abstain. The throne of the Kingdom is erected not in the land of the doing, but in the land of the being; it is not primarily a matter of clean hands but of clean hearts. Thus we are driven backwards and inwards, from considerations about eating and drinking, to find elsewhere the realm of the Kingdom of God. Where, then, does it set up its throne in human life?

In every life there is a holy of holies. It is an intensely secret place. The dearest friend we have on earth cannot enter it. It is our temple of secrets, of things which cannot be told. It is a place where only two can meet---our spirit and the Spirit of God. It is that inner sanctuary where God and we come face to face. That secret place is the abode of the Kingdom of God. We have to know that secret place, that innermost heart, to know finally whether or not men and women belong to the Kingdom of God. We do not eat meat offered to idols! But what are we in our innermost self, where no eye but God's can see us? It is in that utmost privacy of our life that we must look to learn whether we are or are not citizens of the Kingdom of God.

What Paul tells us is that, when the Kingdom of God is really in the life, there will be three things in that most secret place. There will be 'righteousness,' 'peace,' and 'joy.'

Righteousness.---According to the Apostle, the first thing which characterizes the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the human life is that we become righteous, right with God in our innermost self. If we want the structure of this Kingdom to be built up in our life, we must begin at the base, at the foundation; and the fundamental requisite is that in the very depths of our being we must become right with God. This is the fundamental requirement; not that we should get peace or possess joy. Our worship, our churches, our Christian institutions have for their primary purpose the putting of man into a right relation to God: to bring our lives in touch with God, that His life may flow like healing waters into ours.

Suppose I go to the doctor with my arm out of joint, and say to him, "Doctor, I cannot get any rest or peace. I pass through painful days and sleepless nights. I want you to give me a sleeping pill that I may enjoy a little rest." I think the doctor would smile and say, "My dear sir, it is not a sleeping pill you need to give you a few hours of unnatural peace. You must get your arm into its socket; set that right, and then Nature will give you her own sleep and her own peace."

No man can sound the depths of his own natural peace, or rise to the heights of his own natural bliss, who is not conscious of the presence and the companionship of God. This consciousness is natural to the soul whose will is in harmony with the will of God, but it is impossible to the soul whose will is not converted to the Divine will.

The Kingdom of God within us is rightness with God, and from that rightness with God comes right dealing with our fellow-men. Not carping criticism, not fault-finding and intolerance, but righteousness and just dealing, should be the characteristic of the citizens of the Kingdom.

Peace.---Having got right with God, our wills at one with His, we shall then discover the second characteristic of the Kingdom---the possession of an abiding peace. The Kingdom of God is peace in the Holy Spirit, peace in that secret place where only God and we meet. That place is for many of us a place of great unrest. The last place into which many of us would go for peace would be into the secret heart where we meet alone with God. It is the place above all others where there rages a storm. But when we are united with God, joined to Him in right relationship, there comes to us the gift of His peace. 'My peace I give unto you'; receiving My life you shall receive My peace, the same serenity in danger, the same equanimity in troublous surroundings, the same freedom from anxious care, 'My peace!' If we have ever spoken to any one who has passed out of the storm and turbulence into the possession of Christ's peace, they will tell us how He takes the threat out of yesterday, the despondency out of today, and the fear out of tomorrow.

Joy.---'The Kingdom of God is joy.' Is righteousness the pole-star of our lives? Is peace the music of our hearts? If so, then to us, as to the shepherds of old, the message of the Epiphany is addressed, 'Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.' If so, then on us, as true and faithful citizens, loyal to the laws and customs of the Kingdom, our Sovereign will confer His crowning privilege, 'joy in the Holy Spirit.' Not joy as men count joy; no earthly passion and no transitory excitement; but the abiding inward satisfaction of a conscious harmony with the will of God.

Jesus names to us a striking peculiarity about the joy of the righteous: 'Your joy no man taketh from you.' No thief of accident or circumstance can steal it! If we find the joy of our life merely in entertainment or amusement there is many a thief that can take it away from us. Poverty may dry up our resources in a day. Sickness may throw us upon ourselves, and make a wide gulf between us and our joys. We are called to a joy compared with which all other joys are very tasteless and tame, the joy of being a friend of Christ, joy in the Holy Spirit.

When Christ came into my life, He drew up all the blinds, opened all the doors, and His joy came blowing in from everywhere.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha