THE WAY TO GOD
And How to Find It
Have All God's People Assurance?
Someone will ask, "Have all God's people Assurance?" No; I think a good
many of God's dear people have no Assurance; but it is the privilege of every child
of God to have beyond doubt a knowledge of his own salvation. No man is fit for God's
service who is filled with doubts. If a man is not sure of his own salvation, how
can he help anyone else into the kingdom of God? If I seem in danger of drowning
and do not know whether I shall ever reach the shore, I cannot assist another. I
must first get on the solid rock myself; and then I can lend my brother a helping
hand. If being myself blind I were to tell another blind man how to get sight, he
might reply, "First get healed yourself; and then you can tell me."
There are two classes who ought not to have Assurance. First: those who are in the Church, but who are not converted, having never been born of the Spirit. Second: those not willing to do God's will; who are not ready to take the place that God has mapped out for them, but want to fill some other place.
None will have time or heart to work for God, who are not assured as to their own salvation. They have as much as they can attend to; and being themselves burdened with doubts, they cannot help others to carry their burdens. There is no rest, joy, or peace- no liberty, nor power- where doubts and uncertainty exist.
Now it seems as if there are three wiles of Satan against which we ought to be on our guard. In the first place he moves all his kingdom to keep us away from Christ; then he devotes himself to get us into "Doubting Castle:" but if we have, in spite of him, a clear ringing witness for the Son of God, he will do all he can to blacken our characters and belie our testimony.
Doubt Is Very Dishonoring to God
Some seem to think that it is presumption not to have doubts: but doubt is very
dishonoring to God. If anyone were to say that they had known a person for thirty
years and yet doubted him, it would not be very creditable: and when we have known
God for ten, twenty, or thirty years does it not reflect on His veracity to doubt
Could Paul and the early Christians and martyrs have gone through what they did if they had been filled with doubts, and had not known whether they were going to heaven or to perdition after they had been burned at the stake? They must have had ASSURANCE.
C. H. Spurgeon says:
What John Tells Us
Now let us come to the Word. John tells us in his Gospel what Christ did for us on earth. In his Epistle he tells us what He is doing for us in heaven as our Advocate. In his Gospel there are only two chapters in which the word "believe" does not occur. With these two exceptions, every chapter in John is "Believe! Believe!! BELIEVE!!!" He tells us in 20:31,
That is the purpose for which he wrote the Gospel-
Turn to 1 John 5:13. There he tells us why he wrote this Epistle.
Notice to whom he writes it:
There are only five short chapters in this first Epistle, and the word "know"
occurs over forty times. It is "Know! KNOW!! KNOW!!!" The Key to
it is KNOW! and all through the Epistle there rings out the refrain- "that
we might know that we have eternal life."
I went twelve hundred miles down the Mississippi in the spring some years ago; and every evening, just as the sun went down, you might have seen men, and sometimes women, riding up to the banks of the river on either side on mules or horses, and sometimes coming on foot, for the purpose of lighting up the Government lights; and all down that mighty river there were landmarks which guided the pilots in their dangerous navigation. Now God has given us lights or landmarks to tell us whether we are His children or not. What we need to do is to examine the tokens He has given us.
Five Things Worth Knowing
In the third chapter of John's first Epistle there are five things worth knowing.
Will the Christian Sin?
But some will say, "Well, I believe all that; but then I have sinned since
I became a Christian." Is there a man or a woman on the face of the earth who
has not sinned since becoming a Christian? Not one. There never has been, and never
will be, a soul on this earth who has not sinned, or who will not sin, at some time
of their Christian experience. But God has made provision for believers' sins. We
are not to make provision for them; but God has. Bear that in mind.
Turn to 1 John 2:1:
He is here writing to the righteous. "If any man sin, we"- John put himself in- "we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." What an Advocate! He attends to our interests at the very best place- the throne of God. He said, "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away" (John 16:7). He went away to become our High Priest, and also our Advocate. He has had some hard cases to plead; but He has never lost one: and if you entrust your immortal interests to Him, He will
The Past Sins of Christians Are All Forgiven
The past sins of Christians are all forgiven as soon as they are confessed; and
they are never to be mentioned. That is a question which is not to be opened up again.
If our sins have been put away, that is the end of them. They are not to be remembered;
and God will not mention them anymore. This is very plain. Suppose I have a son who,
while I am away from home, does wrong. When I go home he throws his arms around my
neck and says, "Papa, I did what you told me not to do. I am sorry. Do forgive
me" I say: "Yes, my son," and kiss him. He wipes away his tears, and
goes off rejoicing.
But the next day he says: "Papa, I wish you would forgive me for the wrong I did yesterday." I should say: "Why, my son, that thing is settled; and I don't want it mentioned again." "But I wish you would forgive me: it would help me to hear you say, 'I forgive you.'" Would that be honoring me? Would it not grieve me to have my boy doubt me? But to gratify him I say again, "I forgive you, my son."
And if, the next day, he were again to bring up that old sin, and ask forgiveness, would not that grieve me to the heart? And so, my dear reader, if God has forgiven us, never let us mention the past. Let us forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those which are before, and press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let the sins of the past go; for
And let me say that this principle is recognized in courts of justice. A case came up in the courts of a country- I won't say where- in which a man had trouble with his wife; but he forgave her, and then afterwards brought her into court. And, when it was known that he had forgiven her, the judge said that the thing was settled. The judge recognized the soundness of the principle, that if a sin were once forgiven there was an end of it. And do you think the Judge of all the earth will forgive you and me, and open the question again? Our sins are gone for time and eternity, if God forgives; and what we have to do is to confess and forsake our sins.
How to Tell If You Are A Child of God
Again in 2 Corinthians 13:5:
Now examine yourselves. Try your religion. Put it to the test. Can you forgive
an enemy? That is a good way to know if you are a child of God. Can you forgive an
injury, or take an affront, as Christ did? Can you be censured for doing well, and
not murmur? Can you be misjudged and misrepresented, and yet keep a Christ-like spirit?
Another good test is to read Galatians 5, and notice the fruits of the Spirit; and see if you have them.
If I have the fruits of the Spirit I must have the Spirit. I could not have the fruits without the Spirit any more than there could be an orange without the tree. And Christ says:
Make the tree good, and the fruit will be good. The only way to get the fruit
is to have the Spirit. That is the way to examine ourselves whether we are the children
Then there is another very striking passage. In Romans 8:9, Paul says:
That ought to settle the question, even though one may have gone through all the external forms that are considered necessary by some to constitute a member of a church. Acceptance as a member of a church is not proof that you are born again- that you are a new creature in Christ Jesus.
Growing in Grace
But although you may be born again, it will require time to become a full-grown Christian. Justification is instantaneous; but sanctification is a life-work. We are to grow in wisdom. Peter says:
and in the first chapter of his Second Epistle,
So that we are to add grace to grace. A tree may be perfect in its first year of growth; but it does not attain its maturity. So with the Christian: he may be a true child of God, but not a matured Christian. The eighth of Romans is very important, and we should be very familiar with it. In the fourteenth verse the apostle says:
Just as the soldier is led by his captain, the pupil by his teacher, or the traveler by his guide; so the Holy Spirit will be the guide of every true child of God.
Paul's Teaching On Assurance
Then let me call your attention to another fact. All Paul's teaching in nearly every Epistle rings out the doctrine of assurance, He says in 2 Corinthians 5:1:
He had a title to the mansions above, and he says- I know it. He was not living in uncertainty, He said:
and if he had been uncertain he would not have said that. Then in Colossians 3:4, he says:
I am told that Dr. Watts' tombstone bears this same passage of Scripture. There
is no doubt there.
Then turn to Colossians 1:12:
It does not say that He is going to make us meet; that He is going to deliver;
that He is going to translate.
Then again in verse fourteen:
We are either forgiven or we are not; we should not give ourselves any rest until we get into the kingdom of God; nor until we can each look up and say,
Look at Romans 8:32:
If He gave us His Son, will He not give us the certainty that He is ours. I have
heard this illustration. There was a man who owed $10,000, and would have been made
a bankrupt, but a friend came forward and paid the sum. It was found afterwards that
he owed a few dollars more; but he did not for a moment entertain a doubt that, as
his friend had paid the larger amount, he would also pay the smaller. And we have
high warrant for saying that if God has given us His Son He will "with
Him also freely give us all things"; and if we want to realize our salvation
beyond controversy He will not, leave us in darkness.
Again in the thirty-third verse:
Assurance May Be A Certainty
That has the right ring in it. There is Assurance for you. "I
KNOW." Do you think that the God who has justified me will condemn me?
That is quite an absurdity. God is going to save us so that neither men, angels,
nor devils, can bring any charge against us or Him. He will have the work complete.
Job lived in a darker day than we do; but we read in Job 19:25:
The same confidence breathes through Paul's last words to Timothy:
It is not a matter of doubt, but of knowledge. "I know."
"I am persuaded." The word "Hope,"
is not used in the Scripture to express doubt. It is used in regard to the second
coming of Christ, or to the resurrection of the body. We do not say that we "hope"
we are Christians. I do not say that I "hope" I am an American, or that
I "hope" I am a married man. These are settled things. I may say that I
"hope" to go back to my home; or I "hope" to attend such a meeting.
I do not say that I "hope" to come to this country, for I am here. And
so, if we are born of God we know it; and He will not leave us in darkness if we
search the Scriptures.
Christ taught this doctrine to His seventy disciples when they returned elated with their success, saying,
The Lord seemed to check them, and said that He would give them something to rejoice in.
Our Salvation Is Sure
It is the privilege of everyone of us to know, beyond a doubt, that our salvation
is sure. Then we can work for others. But if we are doubtful of our own salvation,
we are not fit for the service of God.
Another passage is John 5:24:
Some people say that you never can tell till you are before the great white throne of Judgment whether you are saved or not. Why, my dear friend, if your life is hid with Christ in God, you are not coming into judgment for your sins. We may come into judgment for reward. This is clearly taught where the lord reckoned with the servant to whom five talents had been given, and who brought other five talents saying,
We shall be judged for our stewardship. That is one thing; but salvation- eternal
life- is another.
Will God demand payment twice of the debt which Christ has paid for us? If Christ bore my sins in His own body on the tree, am I to answer for them as well?
Isaiah tells us that,
In Romans 4:25 we read: He
Let us believe, and get the benefit of His finished work.
Then again in John 10:9:
Then in the twenty-seventh verse,
Think of that! The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are pledged to keep us. You see that it is not only the Father, not only the Son, but the three persons of the Triune God.
Looking for a Life
Now a great many people want some token outside of God's word. That habit always brings doubt. If I made a promise to meet a man at a certain hour and place tomorrow, and he were to ask me for my watch as a token of my sincerity, it would be a slur on my truthfulness. We must not question what God has said: He has made statement after statement, and multiplied figure upon figure. Christ says:
Let me remind you where our doubts come from. A good many of God's dear people never get beyond knowing themselves servants. He calls us "friends."
If you go into a house you will soon see the difference between the servant and
the son. The son walks at perfect liberty all over the house: he is at home. But
the servant takes a subordinate place. What we want is to get beyond servants. We
ought to realize our standing with God as sons and daughters. He will not "un-child"
His children. God has not only adopted us; but we are His by birth: we have been
born into His kingdom. My little boy was as much mine when he was a day old as now
that he is fourteen. He was my son; although it did not appear what he would
be when he attained manhood. He is mine; although he may have to undergo probation
under tutors and governors.
Another origin of doubts is looking at ourselves. If you want to be wretched and miserable, filled with doubts from morning till night, look at yourself.
Many of God's dear children are robbed of joy because they keep looking at themselves.
Three Ways to Look
Someone has said: "There are three ways to look. If you want to be wretched, look within; if you wish to be distracted, look around; but if you would have peace, look up."
He had God's eternal word, which was sure footing, and better than either marble,
granite, or iron; but the moment he took his eyes off Christ, down he went. Those
who look around cannot see how unstable and dishonoring is their walk. We want to
look straight at the "Author and Finisher of our faith"
When I was a boy I could only make a straight track in the snow, by keeping my eyes fixed upon a tree or some object before me. The moment I took my eye off the mark set in front of me, I walked crooked. It is only when we look fixedly on Christ that we find perfect peace. After He rose from the dead He showed His disciples His hands and His feet.
That was the ground of their peace. If you want to scatter your doubts, look at
the blood; and if you want to increase your doubts, look at yourself. You will get
doubts enough for years by being occupied with yourself for a few days.
Then again: look at what He is, and at what He has done; not at what you are, and what you have done. That is the way to get peace and rest.
What Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation Accomplished
Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring the emancipation of three millions
of slaves. On a certain day their chains were to fall off, and they were to be free.
That proclamation was put up on the trees and fences wherever the Northern Army marched.
A good many slaves could not read: but others read the proclamation, and most of
them believed it; and on a certain day a glad shout went up, "We are free!"
Some did not believe it, and stayed with their old masters; but it did not alter
the fact that they were free. Christ, the Captain of our salvation, has proclaimed
freedom to all who have faith in Him. Let us take Him at His word. Their feelings
would not have made the slaves free. The power must come from the outside. Looking
at ourselves will not make us free, but it is looking to Christ with the eye of faith.
Bishop Ryle has strikingly said:
Another writer says: "I have seen shrubs and trees grow out of the rocks, and overhang fearful precipices, roaring cataracts, and deep running waters; but they maintained their position, and threw out their foliage and branches as much as if they had been in the midst of a dense forest." It was their hold of the rock that made them secure; and the influences of nature that sustained their life. So believers are oftentimes exposed to the most horrible dangers in their journey to heaven; but, so long as they are "rooted and grounded" (Ephesians 3:17) in the Rock of Ages, they are perfectly secure. Their hold of Him is their guarantee; and the blessings of His grace give them life and sustain them in life. And as the tree must die, or the rock fall, before a dissolution can be effected between them, so either the believer must lose his spiritual life, or the rock must crumble, ere their union can be dissolved.
CHAPTER 8. Back to Top
Christ All and In All
"Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all" -Colossians 3:11.
CHRIST is all to us that we make Him to be. I want to emphasize that word "ALL." Some men. make Him to be, "a root of a dry ground... without form or comeliness" (Isaiah 53:2). He is nothing to them; they do not want Him. Some Christians have a very small Saviour, for they do not let Him do great and mighty things for them. Others have a mighty Saviour, because they make Him to be great and mighty.
A Saviour from Sin
If we would know what Christ wants to be to us, we must first of all know Him
as our Saviour from sin. When the angel came down from heaven to proclaim that He
was to be born into the world, you remember he gave His name, "He
shall be called Jesus, (Saviour) for He shall save His
people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
HAVE, WE, BEEN DELIVERED FROM SIN? He did not come to save us in our sins,
but from our sins.
Now, there are three ways of knowing a man. Some men you know only by hearsay; others you merely know by having been once introduced to them- you know them very slightly; others again you know by having been acquainted with them for years- you know them intimately. So I believe there are three classes of people today in the Christian Church and out of it: those who know Christ only by reading or by hearsay- those who have a historical Christ; those who have a slight personal acquaintance with Him; and those who thirst, as Paul did, to "know Him and the power of His resurrection" (Philippians 3:10). The more we know of Christ the more we shall love Him, and the better we shall serve Him.
Let us look at Him as He hangs upon the Cross, and see how He has put away sin. He was manifested that He might; take away our sins; and if we really know Him we must first of all see Him as our Saviour from sin. You remember how the angels said to the shepherds on the plains of Bethlehem.
Then if you go clear back to Isaiah, seven hundred years before Christ's birth, you will find these words:
Again, in the First Epistle of John (4:14) we read:
All the heathen religions, we read, teach men to work their way up to God; but the religion of Jesus Christ is God coming down to men to save them, to lift them up out of the pit of sin. In Luke 19:10 we read that Christ Himself told the people what He had come for:
So we start from the Cross, not from the cradle. Christ has opened up a new and living way to the Father. He has taken all the stumbling-blocks out of the way, so that every man who accepts of Christ as his Saviour can have salvation.
Christ Is More Than a Saviour
But Christ is not only a Saviour. I might save a man from drowning and rescue
him from an untimely grave; but I might probably not be able to do any more for him.
Christ is something more than a Saviour. When the children of Israel were placed
behind the blood, that blood was their salvation; but they would still have heard
the crack of the slave-driver's whip if they had not been delivered from the Egyptian
yoke of bondage: then it was that God delivered them from the hand of the king of
Egypt. I have little sympathy with the idea that God comes down to save us, and then
leaves us in prison, the slaves of our besetting sins. No; He has come to deliver
us, and to give us victory over our evil tempers, our passions, and our lusts. Are
you a professed Christian, but one who is a slave to some besetting sin? If you want
to get victory over that temper or that lust, go on to know Christ more intimately.
He brings deliverance for the past, the present, and the future.
When Things Look Dark
How often, like the children of Israel when they came to the Red Sea, have we become discouraged because everything looked dark before us, behind us, and around us, and we knew not which way to turn. Like Peter we have said, "To whom shall we go?" (John 6:68). But God has appeared for our deliverance. He has brought us through the Red Sea right out into the wilderness, and opened up the way into the Promised Land. But Christ is not only our Deliverer; He is our Redeemer. That is something more than being our Saviour. He has bought us back.
If gold could have redeemed us, could He not have created ten thousand worlds
full of gold?
When God had redeemed the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, and brought them through the Red Sea, they struck out for the wilderness; and then God became to them their Way. I am so thankful the Lord has not left us in darkness as to the right way. There is no living man who has been groping in the darkness but may know the way. "I am the Way," says Christ. If we follow Christ we shall be in the right way, and have the right doctrine. Who could lead the children of Israel through the wilderness like the Almighty God Himself? He knew the pitfalls and dangers of the way, and guided the people through all their wilderness journey right into the promised land. It is true that if it had not been for their accursed unbelief they might have crossed into the land at Kadesh-barnea, and taken possession of it.. But they desired something besides God's word; so they were turned back, and had to wander in the desert for forty years. I believe there are thousands of God's children wandering in the wilderness still. The Lord has delivered them from the hand of the Egyptian, and would at once take them through the wilderness right into the Promised Land, if they were only willing to follow Christ. Christ has been down here, and has made the rough places smooth, and the dark places light, and the crooked places straight. If we will only be led by Him, and will follow Him, all will be peace, and joy, and rest.
Blazing the Way
In the frontier when a man goes out hunting he takes a hatchet with him, and cuts off pieces from the bark of the trees as he goes along through the forest: this is called "blazing the way." He does it that he may know the way back, as there is no pathway through these thick forests. Christ has come down to this earth; He has "blazed the way:" and now that He has gone up on high, if we will but follow Him, we shall be kept in the right path. I will tell you how you may know if you are following Christ or not. If someone has slandered you, or misjudged you, do you treat them as your Master would have done? If you do not bear these things in a loving and forgiving spirit, all the churches and ministers in the world cannot make you right.
Christ is not only our way: He is the Light upon the way. He says, "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12; 9:5; 12 46). He goes on to say, "He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life." It is impossible for any man or woman who is following Christ to walk in darkness. If your soul is in the darkness, groping around in the fog and mist of earth, let me tell you it is because you have got away from the true light. There is nothing but light that will dispel darkness. So let those who are walking in spiritual darkness admit Christ into their hearts: He is the Light. I call to mind a picture of which I used at one time to think a good. deal; but now I have come to look more closely, I would not put it up in my house except I turned the face to the wall. It represents Christ as standing at a door, knocking, and having a big lantern in His hand. Why, you might as well hang up a lantern to the sun as put one into Christ's hand. He is the Sun of Righteousness; and it is our privilege to walk in the light of an unclouded sun.
Trying to Catch One's Shadow
Many people are hunting after light, and peace, and joy. We are nowhere told to
seek after these things. If we admit Christ into our hearts these will all come of
themselves. I remember, when a boy, I used to try in vain to catch my shadow. One
day I was walking with my face to the sun; as I happened to look round I saw that
my shadow was following me. The faster I went the faster my shadow followed; I could
not get away from it. So when our faces are directed to the Sun of Righteousness,
the peace and the joy are sure to come.
A man said to me some time ago, "Moody, how do you feel?" It was so long since I had thought about my feelings I had to stop and consider awhile, in order to find out. Some Christians are all the time thinking about their feelings; and because they do not feel just right they think their joy is all gone. If we keep our faces towards Christ, and are occupied with Him, we shall be lifted out of the darkness and the trouble that may have gathered round our path.
I remember being in a meeting after the war of the rebellion broke out. The war had been going on for about six months. The army of the North had been defeated at Bull Run: in fact, we had nothing but defeat, and it looked as though the Republic was going to pieces. So we were much cast down and discouraged. At this meeting every speaker for awhile seemed as if he had hung his harp upon the willow; and it was one of the gloomiest meetings I ever attended. Finally an old man with beautiful white hair got up to speak, and his face literally shone. "Young men," he said, "you do not talk like sons of the King. Though it is dark just here, remember it is light somewhere else." Then he went on to say that if it were dark all over the world it was light up around the Throne.
Rise Above the Clouds
He told us he had come from the East, where a friend had described to him how
he had been up a mountain to spend the night and see the sun rise. As the party was
climbing up the mountain, and before they had reached the summit, a storm came on.
This friend said to the guide, "I will give this up; take me back." The
guide smiled, and replied, "I think we shall get above the storm soon."
On they went; and it was not long before they got up to where it was as calm as a
summer evening. Down in the valley a terrible storm raged; they could hear the thunder
rolling, and see the lightning's flash; but all was serene on the mountaintop. "And
so, my young friends," continued the old man, "though all is dark around
you, come a little higher, and the darkness will flee away." Often when I have
been inclined to get discouraged, I have thought of what he said. Now if you are
down in the valley amid the thick fog and the darkness, get a little higher; get
nearer to Christ, and know more of Him.
You remember the Bible says, that when Christ expired on the cross, the light of the world was put out. God sent His Son to be the light of the world; but men did not love the light because it reproved them of their sins. When they had tried to put out this light, what did Christ say to His disciples?
He has gone up yonder to intercede for us; but He wants us to shine for Him down here.
So our work is to shine: not to blow our own trumpet so that people may look at us. What we want to do is to show forth Christ. If we have any light at all it is borrowed light. Someone said to a young Christian: "Converted! it is a moonshine!" Said he: "I thank you for the illustration; the moon borrows its light from the sun; and we borrow ours from the Sun of Righteousness." If we are Christ's, we are here to shine for Him: by and by He will call us home to our reward.
The Blind Man and the Lantern
I remember hearing of a blind man who sat by the wayside with a lantern near him.
When he was asked what he had a lantern for, as he could not see the light, he said
it was that people should not stumble over him. I believe more people stumble over
the inconsistencies of professed Christians than from any other cause. What is doing
more harm to the cause of Christ than all the skepticism in the world is this cold,
dead formalism, this conformity to the world, this professing what we do not possess?
The eyes of the world are upon us. I think it was George Fox who said every Quaker
ought to light up the country for ten miles around him. If we were all brightly shining
for the Master, those about us would soon be reached, and there would be a shout
of praise going to heaven.
People say- "I want to know what is the truth." Listen: "I AM... THE TRUTH" (John 14:6), says Christ. If you want to know what the truth is, get acquainted with Christ. People also complain that they have not life. Many are trying to give themselves spiritual life. You may galvanize yourselves and put electricity into yourselves, so to speak; but the effect will not last very long. Christ alone is the author of life. If you would have real spiritual life get to know Christ. Many try to stir up spiritual life by going to meetings. That may be well enough; but it will be of no use, unless they get into contact with the living Christ. Then their spiritual life will not be a spasmodic thing, but will be perpetual; flowing on and on, and bringing forth fruit to God.
Then Christ Is Our Keeper
A great many young disciples are afraid they will not hold out.
It is the work of Christ to keep us; and if He keeps us there will be no danger of our falling. I suppose if Queen Victoria had to take care of the Crown of England, some thief might attempt to get access to it; but it is put away in the Tower of London, and guarded night and day by soldiers. The whole English army would, if necessary, be called out to protect it. And we have no strength in ourselves. We are no match for Satan; he has had six thousand years' experience. But then we remember that the One who neither slumbers nor sleeps is our keeper. In Isaiah 41:10, we read,
In Jude also, verse 24 we are told that He is "able to keep us from falling."
But Christ is something more. He is our SHEPHERD. It is the work of the shepherd to care for the sheep, to feed them, and protect them.
In that wonderful tenth chapter of John, Christ uses the personal pronoun no less than twenty-eight times, in declaring what He is and what He will do. In verse 28 He says,
But notice the word "man" is in italics. See how the verse really reads: "Neither shall ANY pluck them out of My hand"- no devil or man shall be able to do it. In another place the Scripture declares,
How safe and how secure!
Christ says, "My sheep hear My voice... and they follow Me" (John 10:27). A gentleman in the East heard of a shepherd who could call all his sheep to him by name. He went and asked if this was true. The shepherd took him to the pasture where they were, and called one of them by some name. One sheep looked up and answered the call, while the others went on feeding and paid no attention. In the same way he called about a dozen of the sheep around him. The stranger said, "How do you know one from the other? They all look perfectly alike." "Well," said he, "you see that sheep toes in a little; that other one has a squint; one has a little piece of wool off; another has a black spot; and another has a piece out of its ear." The man knew all his sheep by their failings, for he had not a perfect one in the whole flock. I suppose our Shepherd knows us in the same way.
His Sheep Knew His Voice
An Eastern shepherd was once telling a gentleman that his sheep knew his voice
and that no stranger could deceive them. The gentleman thought he would like to put
the statement to the test. So he put on the shepherd's frock and turban, and took
his staff, and went to the flock. He disguised his voice, and tried to speak as much
like the shepherd as he could; but he could not get a single sheep in the flock to
follow him. He asked the shepherd if his sheep never followed a stranger. He was
obliged to admit that if a sheep got sickly it would follow anyone.
So it is with a good many professed Christians: when they get sickly and weak in the faith, they will follow any teacher that comes along; but when the soul is in health, a man will not be carried away by errors and heresies. He will know whether the "voice" speaks the truth or not. He can soon tell that, if he is really in communion with God. When God sends a true messenger, his words will find a ready response in the Christian heart.
Christ is a tender Shepherd. You may sometime think He has not been a very tender Shepherd to you: you are passing under the rod. It is written,
That you are passing under the rod is no proof that Christ does not love you.
A friend of mine lost all his children. No man could ever have loved his family more; but the scarlet fever took one by one away; and so the whole four or five, one after another, died. The poor stricken parents went over to Great Britain, and wandered from one place to another, there and on the continent. At length they found their way to Syria. One day they saw an Eastern shepherd come down to a stream, and call his flock to cross. The sheep came down to the brink, and looked at the water; but they seemed to shrink from it, and he could not get them to respond to his call. He then took a little lamb, put it under one arm; he took another lamb and put it under the other arm, and thus passed into the stream. The old sheep no longer stood looking at the water: they plunged in after the shepherd; and in a few minutes the whole flock was on the other side; and they hurried away to newer and fresher pastures. The bereaved father and mother, as they looked on the scene, felt that it taught them a lesson. They no longer murmured because the Great Shepherd had taken their lambs one by one into yonder world; and they began to look up and look forward to the time when they would follow the loved ones they had lost. If you have loved ones gone before, remember that your Shepherd is calling you to "set your affection on things above" (Colossians 3:2). Let us be faithful to Him, and follow Him, while we remain in this world. And if you have not taken Him for your Shepherd do so this very day.
Wonderful Description of Christ
Christ is not only all these things that I have mentioned: He is also our Mediator, our Sanctifier, our Justifier; in fact, it would take volumes to tell what He desires to be to every individual soul. While looking through some papers I once read this wonderful description of Christ. I do not know where it originally came from; but it was so fresh to my soul that I should like to give it to you:-
Here is another beautiful extract: it is from Gotthold:
[Note: Christian Scriver, Born January 2, 1629 was a court preacher who had quite a friendship with Gotthold, whose first name he does not give, but from whose lips he heard and took down what he called "Gotthold's" emblems. They were well known in Martin Luther's day. Translated in U.S.A. in 1859.]
CHAPTER 9. Back to Top
"I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely: for Mine anger is turned away" -Hosea 14:4.
THERE ARE TWO KINDS of backsliders. Some have never been converted: they have
gone through the form of joining a Christian community and claim to be backsliders;
but they never have, if I may use the expression, "slid forward." They
may talk of backsliding; but they have never really been born again. They need to
be treated differently to real backsliders,- those who have been born of the incorruptible
seed, but who have turned aside. We want to bring the latter back the same road by
which they left their first love.
Turn to Psalm 85:5. There you read:
Now look again:
Backsliders and the Word of God
There is nothing that will do backsliders so much good as to take them to the
Word of God; and for them the Old Testament is as full of help as the New. The book
of Jeremiah has some wonderful passages for wanderers. What we want to do is to get
backsliders to hear what God the Lord will say.
Look for a moment at Jeremiah 6:10.
That is the condition of backsliders. They have no delight whatever in the word of God. But we want to bring them back, and let God get their ear. Read from the fourteenth verse to the seventeenth:
That was the condition of the Jews when they had backslidden. They had turned away from the old paths. And that is the condition of backsliders. They have got away from the good old book. Adam and Eve fell by not hearkening to the word of God. They did not believe God's word; but they believed the Tempter. That is the way backsliders fall- by turning away from the word of God.
"I Will Plead With You"
In Jeremiah 2 we find God pleading with them as a father would plead with a son.
Now there is one thing to which we wish to call the attention of backsliders;
and that is,- that the Lord never forsook them; but that they forsook Him! The Lord
never left them; but they left Him! And this too without any cause! He says: "What iniquity have your fathers found in Me, that they are
gone far from Me?" Is not God the same today as when you came to Him
first? Has God changed? Men are apt to think that God has changed; but the fault
is with them.
Backslider, I would ask you, "What iniquity is there in God, that you have left Him and gone far from Him?" You have, He says, hewed out to yourselves broken cisterns that hold no water. The world cannot satisfy the new creature. No earthly well can satisfy the soul that has become a partaker of the heavenly nature. Honor, wealth, and the pleasures of this world, will not satisfy those who, having tasted the water of life, have gone astray, seeking refreshment at the world's fountains. Earthly wells will get dry. They cannot quench spiritual thirst.
Again in the thirty-second verse:
I have often startled young ladies when I have said to them, "My friend,
you think more of your earrings than of the Lord." The reply has been, "No,
I do not." But when I have asked, "Would you not be troubled if you lost
one; and would you not set about seeking for it?" the answer has been, "Well,
yes, I think I should." But though they had turned from the Lord, it did not
give them any trouble; nor did they seek after Him that they might find Him.
How many once in fellowship and in daily communion with the Lord now think more of their dresses and ornaments than of their precious souls! Love does not like to be forgotten. Mothers would have broken hearts if their children left them and never wrote a word or sent any memento of their affection: and God pleads over backsliders as a parent over loved ones who have gone astray; and He tries to woo them back. He asks: "What have I done that they should have forsaken Me?"
The most tender and loving words to be found in the whole of the Bible are from Jehovah to those who have left Him without a cause. Hear how He argues with such:
I do not exaggerate when I say that I have seen hundreds of backsliders come back; and I have asked them if they have not found it an evil and a bitter thing to leave the Lord. You cannot find a real backslider, who has known the Lord, but will admit that it is an evil and a bitter thing to turn away from Him. I do not know of any one verse more used to bring back wanders than that very one. May it bring you back if you have wandered into the far country.
A Bitter Thing to Turn Away
Look at Lot. Did not he find it an evil and a bitter thing? He was twenty years
in Sodom, and never made a convert. He got on well in the sight of the world. Men
would have told you that he was one of the most influential and worthy men in all
Sodom. But alas, he ruined his family. And it is a pitiful sight to see that old
backslider going through the streets of Sodom at midnight, after he has warned his
children, and they have turned a deaf ear.
I have never known a man and his wife to backslide, without its proving utter ruin to their children. They will make a mockery of religion and will deride their parents: "Thine own wickedness shall correct thee; and thy backsliding shall reprove thee!"
Did not David find it so? Mark him, crying,
I think it was the ruin, rather than the death, of his son that caused this anguish.
Wandering on the Barren Mountains of Sin
I remember being engaged in conversation some years ago, with an old man. He had
been for years wandering on the barren mountains of sin. That night he wanted to
get back. We prayed, and prayed, and prayed, till light broke in upon him; and he
went away rejoicing. The next night he sat in front of me when I was preaching; and
I think that I never saw anyone look so sad and wretched in all my life. He followed
me into the inquiry-room. "What is the trouble?" I asked. "Is your
eye off the Saviour? Have your doubts come back?" "No; it is not that,"
he said. "I did not go to business, but spent all this day in visiting my children.
They are all married in this city. I went from house to house; but there was not
one but mocked me. It is the darkest day of my life. I have awoke up to what I have
done. I have taken my children into the world; and now I cannot get them out."
The Lord had restored unto him the joy of His salvation; yet there was the bitter
consequence of his transgression.
You can run through your experience; and you can find just such instances repeated again and again. Many who came to your city years ago serving God, in their prosperity have forgotten Him. And where are their sons and daughters? Show me the father and mother who have deserted the Lord and gone back to the beggarly elements of the world; and I am mistaken if their children are not on the high road to ruin.
As we desire to be faithful we warn these backsliders. It is a sign of love to warn of danger. We may be looked upon as enemies for a while; but the truest friends are those who lift up the voice of warning. Israel had no truer friend than Moses. In Jeremiah God gave His people a weeping prophet to bring them back to Him; but they cast off God. They forgot the God who brought them out of Egypt, and who led them through the desert into the promised land. In their prosperity they forgot Him and turned away. The Lord had told them what would happen (Deuteronomy 28). And see what did happen. The king who made light of the word of God, was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, and his children brought up in front of him and every one slain; his eyes were put out of his head; and he was bound in fetters of brass and cast into a dungeon in Babylon. (2 Kings 25:7). That is the way he reaped what he had sown. Surely it is an evil and a bitter thing to backslide, but the Lord would win you back with the message of His Word.
In Jeremiah 8:5 we read:
That is what the Lord brings against them.
"They Refuse to Return"
Now look: "I hearkened and heard; but they spake not aright." No family altar! No reading the Bible! No closet devotion! God stoops to hear; but His people have turned away! If there be a penitent backslider, one who is anxious for pardon and restoration, you will find no words more tender than are to be found in Jeremiah 3:12:
think of God coming and saying, "I am married unto you"!-
"Only acknowledge thine iniquity." How
many times have I held that passage up to a backslider! "Acknowledge"
it; and God says I will forgive you. I remember a man asking, "Who said that?
Is that there?" And I held up to him the passage, "Only
acknowledge thine iniquity;" and the man went down on his knees, and
cried, "My God, I have sinned"; and the Lord restored him there and then.
If you have wandered, He wants you to come back.
He says in another place,
His compassion and His love is wonderful!
In Jeremiah 3:22:
He just puts words into the month of the backslider. Only come; and, if you will
come, He will receive you graciously and love you freely.
In Hosea 14:1, 2, 4:
Just observe that, Turn! Turn!! TURN!!! rings all through these passages.
Now, if you have wandered, remember that you left Him, and not He you. You have to get out of the backslider's pit just in the same way you got in. And if you take the same road as when you left the Master you will find Him now, just where you are.
How Backsliders Treat Christ
If we were to treat Christ as an earthly friend we should never leave Him; and there would never be a backslider. If I were in a town for a single week I should not think of going away without shaking hands with the friends I had made, and saying "Good bye" to them. I should be justly blamed if I took the train and left without saying a word to anyone. The cry would be, "What's the matter?" But did you ever hear of a backslider bidding the Lord Jesus Christ "Good bye"; going into his closet and saying "Lord Jesus, I have known Thee ten, twenty, or thirty years: but I am tired of Thy service; Thy yoke is not easy, nor Thy burden light; so I am going back to the world, to the flesh-pots of Egypt. Good bye, Lord Jesus! Farewell"? Did you ever hear of that? No; you never did, and you never will. I tell you, if you get into your closet and shut out the world and hold communion with the Master you cannot leave Him. The language of your heart will be,
You could not go back to the world if you treated Him in that way. But you left
Him and ran away. You have forgotten Him days without number. Come back today; just
as you are! Make up your mind that you will not rest until God has restored unto
you the joy of His salvation.
A gentleman in Cornwall once met a Christian in the street whom he knew to be a backslider. He went up to him, and said: "Tell me, is there not some estrangement between you and the Lord Jesus?" The man hung his head, and said, "Yes." "Well," said the gentleman, "what has He done to you?" The answer to which was a flood of tears.
In Revelation 2:4-5, we read:
I want to guard you against a mistake which some people make with regard to doing "the first works". Many think that they are to have the same experience over again. That has kept thousands for months without peace; because they have been waiting for a renewal of their first experience. You will never have the same experience as when you first came to the Lord. God never repeats Himself. No two people of all earth's millions look alike or think alike. You may say that you cannot tell two people apart; but when you get well acquainted with them you can very quickly distinguish differences. So no one person will have the same experience a second time. If God will restore His joy to your soul let Him do it in His way. Do not mark out a way for God to bless you. Do not expect the same experience that you had two or twenty years ago. You will have a fresh experience, and God will deal with you in His own way. If you confess your sins and tell Him that you have wandered from the path of His commandments He will restore unto you the joy of His salvation.
I want to call your attention to the manner in which Peter fell; and I think that nearly all fall pretty much in the same way. I want to lift up a warning note to those who have not fallen.
Twenty-five years ago-and for the first five years after I was converted- I used
to think that if I were able to stand for twenty years I need fear no fall. But the
nearer you get to the Cross the fiercer the battle. Satan aims high. He went among
the twelve; and singled out the Treasurer- Judas Iscariot, and the Chief Apostle-
Peter. Most men who have fallen have done so on the strongest side of their character.
I am told that the only side upon which Edinburgh Castle was successfully assailed
was where the rocks were steepest, and where the garrison thought themselves secure.
If any man thinks that he is strong enough to resist the devil at any one point,
he need specially watch there for the tempter comes then.
Abraham stands, as it were, at the head of the family of faith; and the children of faith may be said to trace their descent to Abraham: and yet down in Egypt he denied his wife (Genesis 12). Moses was noted for his meekness; and yet he was kept out of the promised land because of one hasty act and speech, when he was told by the Lord to speak to the rock so that the congregation and their beasts should have water to drink.
Elijah was remarkable for his boldness: and yet he went off a day's journey into the wilderness like a coward and hid himself under a juniper tree, requesting for himself that he might die, because of a message he received from a woman (1 Kings 19). Let us be careful. No matter who the man is- he may be in the pulpit- but if he gets self-conceited he will be sure to fall. We who are followers of Christ need constantly to pray to be made humble, and kept humble. God made Moses' face so to shine that other men could see it; but Moses himself knew not that his face shone, and the more holy in heart a man is the more manifest to the outer world will be his daily life and conversation. Some people talk of how humble they are; but if they have true humility there will be no necessity for them to publish it. It is not needful. A lighthouse does not have a drum beaten or a trumpet blown in order to proclaim the proximity of a lighthouse: it is its own witness. And so if we have the true light in us it will show itself. It is not those who make the most noise who have the most piety. There is a brook, or a little "burn" as the Scotch call it, not far from where I live; and after heavy rain you can hear the rush of its waters a long way off: but let there come a few days of pleasant weather, and the brook becomes almost silent. But there is a river near my house, the flow of which I never heard in my life, as it pours on in its deep and majestic course the year round. We should have so much of the love of God within us that its presence shall be evident without our loud proclamation of the fact.
The first step in Peter's downfall was his self-confidence. The Lord warned him. The Lord said:
But Peter said:
But the Lord warned him:
Though the Lord rebuked him Peter said that he was ready to follow Him to death.
That boasting is too often, a forerunner of downfall. Let us walk humbly and softly.
We have a great Tempter; and, in an unguarded hour, we may stumble and fall and bring
a scandal on Christ.
The next step in Peter's downfall was that he went to sleep. If Satan can rock the Church to sleep he does his work through God's own people. Instead of Peter watching one short hour in Gethsemane he fell asleep, and the Lord asked him,
The next thing was that he fought in the energy of the flesh. The Lord rebuked him again and said,
Jesus had to undo what Peter had done. The next thing- he "followed afar off." Step by step he gets away. It is a sad thing when a child of God follows afar off. When you see him associating with worldly friends, and throwing his influence on the wrong side, he is following afar off; and it will not be long before disgrace will be brought upon the old family name, and Jesus Christ will be wounded in the house of his friends. The man, by his example, will cause others to stumble and fall.
Another Wrong Step
The next thing- Peter is familiar and friendly with the enemies of Christ. A damsel
says to this bold Peter: "Thou also wast with Jesus of
Galilee." But he denied before them all, saying, "I
know not what thou sayest." And when he was gone out into the porch another
maid saw him and said unto them that were there, "This
fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth." And again he denied with an
oath, "I do not know the Man." Another hour
passed, and yet he did not realize his position; when another confidently affirmed
that he was a Galilean for his speech betrayed him. And he was angry and began to
curse and to swear, and again denied his Master: and the cock crew (Matthew
He commences away up on the pinnacle of self-conceit, and goes down step by step until he breaks out into cursing and swears that he never knew his Lord.
The Master might have turned and said to him,
The Lord might have upbraided him with questions such as these; but He did nothing
of the kind. He cast one look on Peter: and there was so much love in it that it
broke that bold disciple's heart; and he went out and wept bitterly.
And after Christ rose from the dead see how tenderly He dealt with the erring disciple.
The angel at the sepulcher says, "Tell His disciples,
and Peter" (Mark 16:7). The Lord did not
forget Peter, though Peter had denied Him thrice; so He caused this kindly special
message to be conveyed to the repentant disciple. What a tender and loving Saviour
Friend, if you are one of the wanderers, let the loving look of the Master win you back; and let Him restore you to the joy of His salvation.
Before closing, let me say that I trust God will restore some backslider reading these pages, who may in the future become a useful member of society and a bright ornament of the Church. We should never have had the thirty-second Psalm if David had not been restored:
or that beautiful fifty-first Psalm which was written by the restored backslider.
Nor should we have had that wonderful sermon on the day of Pentecost when three thousand
were converted- preached by another restored backslider.
May God may restore other backsliders and make them a thousand times more used for His glory than they ever were before.
CHAPTERS 1-3 on page 1 ---New Window
CHAPTERS 4-6 on page 2 ---New Window
CHAPTERS 7-9 on page 3 (this page)
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