The blind man can see no difference between a masterpiece of Titian or Raphael, and the Queen’s Head on a village signboard. The deaf man cannot distinguish between a penny whistle and a cathedral organ.
The very animals whose smell is most offensive to us have no idea that they are offensive, and are not offensive to one another.
And man, fallen man, I believe, can have no just idea what a vile thing sin is in the sight of that God whose handiwork is absolutely perfect—perfect whether we look through telescope or microscope—perfect in the formation of a mighty planet like Jupiter, with his satellites, keeping time to a second as he rolls round the sun—perfect in the formation of the smallest insect that crawls over a foot of ground.
No proof of the fulness of sin, after all, is so overwhelming and unanswerable as the cross and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole doctrine of His substitution and atonement. Terribly black must that guilt be for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction. Heavy must that weight of human sin be which made Jesus groan and sweat drops of blood in agony at Gethsemane, and cry at Golgotha, ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’
Awful and tremendous as the right view of sin undoubtedly is, no one need faint and despair if he will take a right view of Jesus Christ at the same time.
The need for Christ to save
A little child is easily quieted and amused with gaudy toys, and dolls, and rattles, so long as it is not hungry; but once let it feel the cravings of nature within, and we know that nothing will satisfy it but food. Just so it is with man in the matter of his soul.
Once let him see his sin, and he must see his Saviour. He feels stricken with a deadly disease, and nothing will satisfy him but the great Physician. He hungers and thirsts, and he must have nothing less than the bread of life.
He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonouring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Saviour. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness,” but their “sanctification.” (1Corinthians 1:30.)
The nature of sanctification
- Sanctification is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith gives to a Christian.—“He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 15:5.)
- Sanctification is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration. He that is born again and made a new creature, receives a new nature and a new principle, and always lives a new life.
- Sanctification is the only certain evidence of that indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is essential to salvation. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” (Romans 8:9.) The Spirit never lies dormant and idle within the soul: He always makes His presence known by the fruit He causes to be borne in heart, character, and life.
- Sanctification is the only sure mark of God’s election. It is expressly written that they are “elect through sanctification – chosen unto salvation through sanctification – predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son – and chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that they should be holy.” – Hence, when St. Paul saw the working “faith” and labouring “love” and patient “hope” of the Thessalonian believers, he says, “I know your election of God.” (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3-4.)
- Sanctification is a thing that will always be seen. Whether he sees it himself or not, others will always see in him a tone, and taste, and character, and habit of life unlike that of other men. The very idea of a man being “sanctified,” while no holiness can be seen in his life, is flat nonsense and a misuse of words.
- Sanctification is a thing for which every believer is responsible. A man who professes to be a true Christian, while he sits still, content with a very low degree of sanctification (if indeed he has any at all), and coolly tells you he “can do nothing,” is a very pitiable sight, and a very ignorant man.
- Sanctification implies growth. If there is any point on which God’s holiest saints agree it is this: that they see more, and know more, and feel more, and do more, and repent more, and believe more, as they get on in spiritual life, and in proportion to the closeness of their walk with God.
- Sanctification depends greatly on a diligent use of Scriptural means. I should as soon expect a farmer to prosper in business who contented himself with sowing his fields and never looking at them till harvest, as expect a believer to attain much holiness who was not diligent about his Bible- reading, his prayers, and the use of his Sundays. Our God is a God who works by means, and He will never bless the soul of that man who pretends to be so high and spiritual that he can get on without them.
- Sanctification does not prevent a man having a great deal of inward spiritual conflict. A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within.
- Sanctification cannot justify a man, and yet it pleases God. The holiest actions of the holiest saint that ever lived are all more or less full of defects and imperfections. They are either wrong in their motive or defective in their performance, and in themselves are nothing better than “splendid sins,” deserving God’s wrath and condemnation. To suppose that such actions can stand the severity of God’s judgment, atone for sin, and merit heaven, is simply absurd.
- Sanctification will be found absolutely necessary as a witness to our character in the great day of judgment. He who supposes works are of no importance, because they cannot justify us, is a very ignorant Christian. Unless he opens his eyes, he will find to his cost that if he comes to the bar of God without some evidence of grace, he had better never have been born.
- Sanctification is absolutely necessary in order to train and prepare us for heaven.
Visible marks of sanctification
- True sanctification then does not consist in talk about religion. We must be sanctified, not only “in word and in tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18.)
- True sanctification does not consist in temporary religious feelings. Let us urge on every one who exhibits new interest in religion to be content with nothing short of the deep, solid, sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost. No state of soul is more dangerous than to imagine we are born again and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, because we have picked up a few religious feelings.
- True sanctification does not consist in outward formalism and external devoutness. In many cases this external religiousness is made a substitute for inward holiness.
- Sanctification does not consist in retirement from our place in life, and the renunciation of our social duties. Christ would have His people show that His grace is not a mere hothouse plant, which can only thrive under shelter, but a strong, hardy thing which can flourish in every relation of life. It is doing our duty in that state to which God has called us – like salt in the midst of corruption, and light in the midst of darkness – which is a primary element in sanctification. “I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil.” (John 17:15.)
- Sanctification does not consist in the occasional performance of right actions. It is the habitual working of a new heavenly principle within, which runs through all a man’s daily conduct, both in great things and in small.
- Genuine sanctification will show itself in habitual respect to God’s law, and habitual effort to live in obedience to it as the rule of life. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that a Christian has nothing to do with the law and the Ten Commandments, because he cannot be justified by keeping them.
- Genuine sanctification will show itself in an habitual endeavour to do Christ’s will, and to live by His practical commands. “You are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14.)
- Genuine sanctification will show itself in an habitual desire to live up to the standard which St. Paul sets before the Churches in his writings. That standard is to be found in the closing chapters of nearly all his Epistles.
- A sanctified man will try to do good in the world, and to lessen the sorrow and increase the happiness of all around him.
- Genuine sanctification, in the last place, will show itself in habitual attention to the passive graces of Christianity. Long-suffering, gentleness, and meekness, are unquestionably passive graces. (Galatians 5:22, 23.)
The distinction between sanctification and justification
There are points in which they agree and points in which they differ. Let us try to find out what they are.
In what are justification and sanctification alike?
- Both proceed originally from the free grace of God. It is of His gift alone that believers are justified or sanctified at all.
- Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people. Christ is the fountain of life, from which pardon and holiness both flow. The root of each is Christ.
- Both are to be found in the same persons. Those who are justified are always sanctified, and those who are sanctified are always justified. God has joined them together, and they cannot be put asunder.
- Both begin at the same time. The moment a person begins to be a justified person, he also begins to be a sanctified person.
- Both are alike necessary to salvation. No one ever reached heaven without a renewed heart as well as forgiveness, without the Spirit’s grace as well as the blood of Christ, without a meetness for eternal glory as well as a title. The one is just as necessary as the other.
In what do justification and sanctification differ?
- Justification is the counting a man to be righteous because of Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous.
- The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification, although imparted and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit involves us as we grow in obedience and trust.
- In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful. In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labour.
- Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.
- Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.
- Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God’s sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.
- Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.
- Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.
A few observations
- If unsanctified souls can be saved and go to heaven, the Bible is not true. Yet the Bible is true and cannot lie! What must the end be!
- What are our tastes, and choices, and likings, and inclinations? This is the great testing question. It matters little what we wish, and what we hope, and what we desire to be before we die. Where are we now? What are we doing? Are we sanctified or not?
- The very first step towards sanctification, no less than justification, is to come with faith to Christ. We must first live and then work.
- If we would grow in holiness and become more sanctified, we must continually go on as we began, and be ever making fresh applications to Christ.
- Our absolute perfection is yet to come, and the expectation of it is one reason why we should long for heaven.
- Let us never be ashamed of making much of sanctification, and contending for a high standard of holiness.
What sort of persons are those whom God calls holy?
- Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment – hating what He hates – loving what He loves – and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.
- A holy man will endeavour to shun every known sin, and to keep every known commandment.
- A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live the life of faith in Him, and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labour to have the mind that was in Him, and to be “conformed to His image.” (Rom. 8:29.) Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6, NIV)
- A holy man will follow after meekness, longsuffering, gentleness, patience, kind tempers, government of his tongue.
- A holy man will follow after temperance and self-denial. (Luke 21:34, 1Corinthians 9:27)
- A holy man will follow after charity and brotherly kindness. He will endeavour to observe the golden rule of doing as he would have men do to him, and speaking as he would have men speak to him. (Romans 13:8)
- A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence towards others. He will strive to be useful in his day and generation, and to lessen the spiritual wants and misery around him, as far as he can (Acts 9:36)
- A holy man will follow after purity of heart. He will dread all filthiness and uncleanness of spirit, and seek to avoid all things that might draw him into it.
- A holy man will follow after the fear of God.
- A holy man will follow after humility. He will desire, in lowliness of mind, to esteem all others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3)
- A holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations in life. He will try, not merely to fill his place as well as others who take no thought for their souls, but even better, because he has higher motives, and more help than they. (Colossians 3:23)
- A holy man will follow after spiritual mindedness. He will endeavour to set his affections entirely on things above, and to hold things on earth with a very loose hand. He will not neglect the business of the life that now is; but the first place in his mind and thoughts will be given to the life to come.
Sanctification is always a progressive work. It has a beginning. Sanctification in the very best is an imperfect work. The gold will never be without some dross – the light will never shine without some clouds, until we reach the heavenly Jerusalem.
True holiness is a great reality. It is something in a man that can be seen, and known, and marked, and felt by all around him. It is light: if it exists, it will show itself. It is salt: if it exists, its savour will be perceived. It is a precious ointment: if it exists, its presence cannot be hid.
Why practical holiness is so important
Can holiness put away sin – cover iniquities – make satisfaction for transgressions – pay our debt to God? No! The white robe which Jesus offers, and faith puts on, must be our only righteousness – the name of Christ our only confidence – the Lamb’s book of life our only title to heaven. With all our holiness we are no better than sinners.
- We must be holy, because the voice of God in Scripture plainly commands it. The Lord Jesus says to His people, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 20; also: Matthew 5:48, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 1 Peter 1:15-16)
- We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world. Paul writes: “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.“ (2 Corinthians 5:15; also: Ephesians 5:25-26, Titus 2:14). Jesus is a complete Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, He does more – He breaks its power.
- We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. If we would die the death of the righteous, let us not rest in slothful desires only; let us seek to live His life.
- We must be holy, because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity (John 14:15, 21, 23: 15:14). Surely that man must be in an unhealthy state of soul who can think of all that Jesus suffered, and yet cling to those sins for which that suffering was undergone.
- We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we are true children of God. “Say not,” says Gurnall, “that thou hast royal blood in thy veins, and art born of God, except thou canst prove thy pedigree by daring to be holy.”
- We must be holy, because this is the most likely way to do good to others. We cannot live to ourselves only in this world. Our lives will always be doing either good or harm to those who see them. You may talk to persons about the doctrines of the Gospels, and few will listen, and still fewer understand. But your life is an argument that none can escape.
- We must be holy, because our present comfort depends much upon it. It is vain for anyone to suppose that he will have a lively sense of his justification, or an assurance of his calling, so long as he neglects good works, or does not strive to live a holy life. “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.“ (1 John 2:3, NIV). “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence“ (1 John 3:18–19, NIV). When the disciples forsook the Lord and fled, they escaped danger, but they were miserable and sad. When, shortly after, they confessed Him boldly before men, they were cast into prison and beaten; but we are told, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41, NIV)
- We must be holy, because without holiness on earth we shall never be prepared to enjoy heaven. Heaven is a holy place. The Lord of heaven is a holy Being. How shall we ever be at home and happy in heaven, if we die unholy? Death works no change. The grave makes no alteration. Each will rise again with the same character in which he breathed his last. Where will our place be if we are strangers to holiness now? To reach the holiday of glory, we must pass through the training school of grace.
- Are you holy? Not all “Christians” are.
- Are you holy, or are you not? Don’t look at others; it’s a personal question.
- Are you yourself holy this very day, or are you not? The great question is not what you think, and what you feel, but what you do. “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14, NIV) Surely it is a text that ought to make us consider our ways, and search our hearts. Surely it should raise within us solemn thoughts, and send us to prayer.
- Impossible? It can be done. With Christ on your side nothing is impossible.
- Be unlike other people? Christ’s true servants always were unlike the world around them – a separate nation, a peculiar people.
- Only a few be saved? “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14, NIV)We must not merely have a Christian name, and Christian knowledge, we must have a Christian character also. We must be saints on earth, if ever we mean to be saints in heaven.
I fear it is sometimes forgotten that God has married together justification and sanctification. They are distinct and different things, beyond question, but one is never found without the other. All justified people are sanctified, and all sanctified are justified. What God has joined together let no man dare to put asunder. Boast not of Christ’s work for you, unless you can show us the Spirit’s work in you.
Advice to all who desire to be holy
- You must begin with Christ. He is the root and beginning of all holiness, and the way to be holy is to come to Him by faith and be joined to Him. “Wisdom without Christ is damning folly – righteousness without Christ is guilt and condemnation – sanctification without Christ is filth and sin – redemption without Christ is bondage and slavery.” (Traill)
- Wait for nothing. Wait for nobody. Linger not. Think not to make yourself ready. Go and say to Him, in the words of that beautiful hymn
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, flee to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace.
- Holiness comes not of blood – parents cannot give it to their children: nor yet of the will of the flesh – man cannot produce it in himself: nor yet of the will of man – ministers cannot give it you by baptism. Holiness comes from Christ. It is the result of vital union with Him, It is the fruit of being a living branch of the True Vine
- Abide in Christ. “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4–5, NIV) He is the Physician to whom you must daily go, if you would keep well. He is the Manna which you must daily eat, and the Rock of which you must daily drink. His arm is the arm on which you must daily lean, as you come up out of the wilderness of this world. You must not only be rooted, you must also be built up in Him.
There is a warfare which concerns every Christian man and woman born into the world. The warfare is the spiritual warfare. It is the fight which everyone who would be saved must fight about his soul. It has consequences which are awful, tremendous, and most peculiar.
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12, NIV)
- True Christianity is a fight. The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security.
- Christians do not fight with other Christians. The fight is not perpetual controversy. The cause of sin is never so much helped as when Christians waste their strength in quarrelling with one another, and spend their time in petty squabbles.
- The fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil. These are his never-dying foes. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. With a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, he must either “fight” or be lost.
- He must fight the flesh. That heart will never be free from imperfection in this world, and it is a miserable delusion to expect it. The Lord Jesus bids us “watch and pray.” There is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer.
No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:27, NIV)
- The Christian must fight the world.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NIV)
- The Christian must fight the devil. Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always “going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour.” An unseen enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out all our ways. A “murderer and a liar” from the beginning, he labours night and day to cast us down to hell. (1Peter 5:8; John 8:44)
Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11–12, NIV)
- Where there is grace there will be conflict. The believer is a soldier. There is no holiness without a warfare. Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight.
- It is a fight of absolute necessity. In this war we can’t remain neutral and sit still. To be at peace with the world, the flesh and the devil, is to be at enmity with God, and in the broad way that leads to destruction. We have no choice or option. We must either fight or be lost.
- It is a fight of universal necessity. All have by nature a heart full of pride, unbelief, sloth, worldliness, and sin. All are living in a world beset with snares, traps, and pitfalls for the soul. All have near them a busy, restless, malicious devil.
- It’s a fight of perpetual necessity. “Even on the brink of Jordan,” said a dying saint, “I find Satan nibbling at my heels.” We must fight till we die. The worst chains are those which are neither felt nor seen by the prisoner.
- The child of God has two great marks about him, and of these two we have one. HE MAY BE KNOWN BY HIS INWARD WARFARE, AS WELL AS BY HIS INWARD PEACE.
True Christianity is a fight by faith
- The truth of God’s written Word is the primary foundation of the Christian soldier’s character. No one ever fights earnestly against the world, the flesh and the devil, unless he has engraved on his heart certain great principles which he believes.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)
- Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’s person, work, and office, is the life, heart, and mainspring of the Christian soldier’s character.
- Habitual lively faith in Christ’s presence and readiness to help is the secret of the Christian soldier fighting successfully. Nothing enables him to bear the fatigue of watching, struggling, and wrestling against sin, like the indwelling confidence that Christ is on his side and success is sure. The whole power of imperial Rome, the mistress of the world, proved unable to stamp out the religion which began with a few fishermen and publicans in Palestine! And then let us remember that believing in an unseen Jesus was the Church’s strength. They won their victory by faith.
That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:12, NIV)
- If Christians do nothing , it is because they do not believe. Faith is the first step toward heaven.
True Christianity is a good fight
- Civil war, even justified war, is an immense and incalculable ethical evil which leaves behind it destruction: it stems from sin.
- The Christian’s fight is good because fought under the best of generals. The Captain of our salvation never fails to lead His soldiers to victory. He never makes any useless movements, never errs in judgment, never commits any mistake.
- The Christian’s fight is good, because fought with the best of helps. Chosen by God the Father, washed in the blood of the Son, renewed by the Spirit, he does not go a warfare at his own charges, and is never alone. Weak as he seems in himself, like a worm, he is strong in the Lord to do great exploits. Surely this is good!
- The Christian fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of promises. To every believer belong exceeding great and precious promises, because they are made by One who cannot lie, and has power as well as will to keep His word.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39, NIV)
- The Christian’s fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of issues and results. No soldiers of Christ are ever lost, missing, or left dead on the battlefield. No mourning will ever need to be put on, and no tears to be shed for either private or officer in the army of Christ. The muster roll, when the last evening comes, will be found precisely the same that it was in the morning.
“I have not lost one of those you gave me.” (John 18:9, NIV)
- The Christian’s fight is good, because it does good to the soul of him that fights it. It promotes humility and charity, it lessens selfishness and worldliness, it induces men to set their affections on things above. Philip Henry, in his last days he said to his family, “I take you all to record that a life spent in the service of Christ is the happiest life that a man can spend upon earth.” Surely this is good!
- The Christian’s fight is a good fight, because it does good to the world. Go where you please, you will find that the presence of a few true Christians is a blessing. Surely this is good!
- The Christian’s fight is good, because it ends in a glorious reward for all who fight it. The bravest generals and soldiers must go down one day before the King of Terrors. Better, far better, is the position of him who fights under Christ’s banner against sin, the world, and the devil. He may get little praise of man while he lives, and go down to the grave with little honour; but he shall have that which is far better, because far more enduring.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Peter 5:4, NIV)
We see only part of it as yet. We see the struggle, but not the end; we see the campaign, but not the reward; we see the cross, but not the crown. We see a few humble, broken-spirited, penitent, praying people, enduring hardships and despised by the world; but we see not the hand of God over them, the face of God smiling on them, the kingdom of glory prepared for them. These things are yet to be revealed. Let us not judge by appearances. There are more good things about the Christian warfare than we see.
- It may be you are struggling hard for the rewards of this world. Perhaps you are straining every nerve to obtain money, or place, or power, or pleasure. If that be your case, take care. Your sowing will lead to a crop of bitter disappointment. Come out from the ways of a thoughtless, unreasoning world. Take up the cross, and become a good soldier of Christ. None who repent and believe are too bad to be enrolled in the ranks of Christ’s army. All who come to Him by faith are admitted, clothed, armed, trained, and finally led on to complete victory. No doubt you will often meet with trouble, fatigue, and hard fighting, before your warfare is accomplished. But let none of these things move you. Greater is He that is for you than all they that be against you. Everlasting liberty or everlasting captivity are the alternatives before you. Choose liberty, and fight to the last.
- It may be you know something of the Christian warfare, and are a tried and proved soldier already. Let us remember that if we would fight successfully we must put on the whole armour of God, and never lay it aside till we die.
“In heaven we shall appear, not in armour, but in robes of glory. But here our arms are to be worn night and day. We must walk, work, sleep in them, or else we are not true soldiers of Christ.” (Gurnall’s Christian Armour.)
No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. (2 Timothy 2:4, NIV)
- Let us remember that the eye of our loving Saviour is upon us, morning, noon, and night. He will never suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, for He suffered Himself being tempted. He knows what battles and conflicts are, for He Himself was assaulted by the Prince of this world.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15, NIV)
- Let us remember that thousands of soldiers before us have fought the same battle that we are fighting, and come off more than conquerors through Him that loved them. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb; and so also may we.
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:12, NIV)
- Christ’s arm is quite as strong as ever, and Christ’s heart is just as loving as ever. He that saved men and women before us is one who never changes.
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25, NIV)
- Let us remember that the time is short. A few more struggles and conflicts, and then we shall bid an eternal good-bye to warfare, and to sin, to sorrow, and to death. Then let us fight on to the last, and never surrender.
Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (Revelation 21:7, NIV)
The cost ought of being a true Christian needs to be counted; it is folly to shut our eyes to the fact that His way is narrow, and the cross comes before the crown.
Always keep in mind: it costs nothing less than the blood of the Son of God to provide an atonement, and to redeem man from hell. The price paid for our redemption was nothing less than the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary. But this not the point of discussion at the moment. We are discussing what a man must be ready to give up if he wants to be a follower of Christ.
What it costs to be a true Christian
- It entails self-denial and self-sacrifice, otherwise we must alter the description of the way of life of saving Christianity is and write, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to heaven!” Conversion is not putting a man in an arm-chair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory.
- It will cost self-righteousness. Be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free grace, and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another. Give up all trust in own morality, respectability, praying, Bible-reading, church-going, and sacrament-receiving, and to trust in nothing but Jesus Christ. It might be harder to deny proud self than sinful self.
- It will cost a man his sins. He must set his face against it, quarrel with it, break off from it, fight with it, crucify it, and labour to keep it under, whatever the world around him may say or think. He must do this honestly and fairly. There must be no separate truce with any special sin which he loves. He must count all sins as his deadly enemies, and hate every false way. Whether little or great, whether open or secret, all his sins must be thoroughly renounced.
Our sins are often as dear to us as our children: we love them, hug them, cleave to them, and delight in them. To part with them is as hard as cutting off a right hand, or plucking out a right eye. But it must be done.
But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. (Ezekiel 18:27–28, NIV)
- It will cost a man his love of ease. He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life. He must be diligent about his prayers, his Bible-reading, and his use of Sundays, with all their means of grace.
- It will cost a man the favour of the world. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted, and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn.
When a limb is mortified, a man will submit to any severe operation, and even to amputation, to save life. Surely a Christian should be willing to give up anything which stands between him and heaven.
But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:20-21,24, NIV)
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12, NIV)
Why is “counting the cost” of such great importance to man’s soul
- There are Christians who are not “rooted and ground” in their faith. It remains shallow, based on superficial experience, emotions, sentiment, or a vague desire to do like others around them. There is no solid work of grace in their hearts. This is the opposite of what Paul prays for:
I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, (Ephesians 3:16–18, NIV)
Myriads of the children of Israel perished miserably in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan. They left Egypt full of zeal and fervour, as if nothing could stop them. But when they found dangers and difficulties in the way, their courage soon cooled down. And so, when enemies, privations, hunger, and thirst began to try them, they murmured against Moses and God, and would fain have gone back to Egypt. In a word, they had “not counted the cost,” and so lost everything, and died in their sins.
The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. (Matthew 13:20–21, NIV)
- Revival meetings (when it is Biblically unsound)
- Some people who came to Christ during rival meetings base their Christian live (only) on an extravagant and disproportionate magnifying three things: instantaneous conversion, the invitation of unconverted sinners to come to Christ, and the possession of inward joy and peace as a test of conversion.
- The duty of coming to Christ at once, “just as we are,” should be pressed on all hearers. It is the very corner-stone of Gospel preaching. But surely men ought to be told to repent as well as to believe. They should be told why they are to come to Christ, and what they are to come for, and whence their need arises.
- The nearness of peace and comfort in Christ should be proclaimed to men. But surely they should be taught that the possession of strong inward joys and high frames of mind is not essential to justification, and that there may be true faith and true peace without such very triumphant feelings. Joy alone is no certain evidence of grace.
- Not all true converts are converted instantaneously, like Saul and the Philippian jailor.
- Sinners are not sufficiently instructed about the holiness of God’s law, the depth of their sinfulness, and the real guilt of sin. To be incessantly telling a sinner to “come to Christ” is of little use, unless you tell him why he needs to come, and show him fully his sins.
- Faith is not properly explained. In some cases people are taught that mere feeling is faith. In others they are taught that if they believe that Christ died for sinners they have faith! At this rate the very devils are believers!
- The possession of inward joy and assurance is made essential to believing. To insist on all believers at once “rejoicing,” as soon as they believe, is most unsafe. Some will believe who cannot at once rejoice.
- Last, but not least, the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, and the absolute necessity of preventing grace, are far too much overlooked. Many talk as if conversions could be manufactured at man’s pleasure.
- Many humble -minded Christians are totally discouraged and daunted. They fancy they have no grace because they cannot reach up to the high frames and feelings which are pressed on their attention
- Revival meetings (meeting the test of the Scriptures):
- Let “all the counsel of God be taught” in Scriptural proportion; and let not two or three precious doctrines of the Gospel be allowed to overshadow all other truths.
- Let repentance be taught fully as well as faith, and not thrust completely into the background. Our Lord Jesus Christ and St. Paul always taught both.
- Let the variety of the Holy Spirit’s works be honestly stated and admitted; and while instantaneous conversion is pressed on men, let it not be taught as a necessity.
- Let those who profess to have found immediate sensible peace be plainly warned to try themselves well, and to remember that feeling is not faith. Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. (John 8:31, NIV)
- Let the great duty of “counting the cost” be constantly urged on all who are disposed to make a religious profession, and let them be honestly and fairly told that there is warfare as well as peace, a cross as well as a crown, in Christ’s service.
- Conviction is not conversion, that feeling is not faith, that sentiment is not grace, that all blossoms do not come to fruit.
Do not speak only of the uniform, the pay, and the glory; speak also of the enemies, the battle, the armour, the watching, the marching, and the drill.
Counting the cost rightly
- Compare the profit and the loss. You may possibly lose something in this world, but you will gain the salvation of your immortal soul.
Then He called the crowd to Him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:34-36, NIV)
- Compare the praise and the blame. Your blame will come from the lips of a few erring, blind, fallible men and women. Your praise will come from the King of kings and Judge of all the earth. It is only those whom He blesses who are really blessed.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12, NIV)
- Compare the friends and the enemies. On the one side of you is the enmity of the devil and the wicked. On the other, you have the favour and friendship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:4–5, NIV)
- Compare the life that now is and the life to come. The present time is not a time of ease. It is a time of watching and praying, fighting and struggling, believing and working. But it is only for a few years. The future is the season of rest and refreshing. Sin shall be cast out. Satan shall be bound. And, best of all, it shall be a rest for ever.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18, NIV)
Compare the pleasures of sin and the happiness of God’s service. The pleasures that the worldly man gets by his ways are hollow, unreal, and unsatisfying. The happiness that Christ gives to His people is something solid, lasting, and substantial. It is not dependent on health or circumstances. It never leaves a man, even in death. It ends in a crown of glory that does not fade away.
… the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. (Job 20:5, NIV)
…an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4–5, NIV)
- Compare the trouble that true Christianity entails, and the troubles that are in store for the wicked beyond the grave. A single day in hell will be worse than a whole life spent in carrying the cross.
… remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. (Luke 16:25, NIV)
- Compare the number of those who turn from sin and the world and serve Christ, and the number of those who forsake Christ and return to the world.
- Noah, by faith, counted the cost and held the world’s opinion very cheap
- Moses, by faith, counted the cost and forsook the pleasures of the Pharaoh’s palace
- Paul, by faith, brought upon himself the hatred of men in exchange of following Jesus Christ
- The same faith must be our helper when we sit down to count the cost of being a true Christian.
- We need to keep in mind:
- does our faith cost us anything at present? If it costs us nothing, it will not support is in the day of affliction, nor cheer us in the hour of death
- what it cost to provide a salvation for your soul. Think how the Son of God left heaven and became Man, suffered on the cross, and lay in the grave, to pay your debt to God, and work out for you a complete redemption.
- persevere and press on; the presence and company of Christ will make amends for all we suffer here below.
Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18, NIV)
There is such a thing as growth in grace
What is not meant by “growth”
- A Christian can ever be more justified, more pardoned, more forgiven, more at peace with God, than he is the first moment that he believes.
- The justification of a believer is a finished, perfect, and complete work; and that the weakest saint, though he may not know and feel it, is as completely justified as the strongest.
- Our election, calling, and standing in Christ admit of no degrees, increase, or diminution.
What is meant by “growth”
- An increase in the degree, size, strength, vigour, and power of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer’s heart.
- His sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness more marked.
- He experiences more of the power of godliness in his own heart. He manifests more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith, and from grace to grace.
- This is what is stated in the Bible:
…you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more… (1 Thessalonians 4:10, NIV)
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, (1 Peter 2:2, NIV)
- The graces which the Christian received when he was justified in Christ are the same in principle, but they have grown and bear fruit
True grace is progressive, of a spreading, growing nature. It is with grace as it is with light: first, there is the day-break; then it shines brighter to the full noon-day. The saints are not only compared to stars for their light, but to trees for their growth, (Isaiah 61:3; Hosea 14:5.) A good Christian is not like Hezekiah’s sun that went backwards, nor Joshua’s sun that stood still, but is always advancing in holiness, and increasing with the increase of God.– Thomas Watson, Minister of St. Stephen’s Walbrook, 1660. (Body of Divinity.)
- Growth in grace is the best evidence of spiritual health and prosperity
- Growth in grace is one way to be happy in our faith
- Growth is one secret of usefulness to others. Our influence on others for good depends greatly on what they see in us.
- Growth in grace pleases God
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16, NIV)
- Growth in grace is not only a thing possible, but a thing for which believers are accountable.
“Christian, as ever you would stir up others to exalt the God of grace, look to the exercise and improvement of your own graces. When poor servants live in a family, and see the faith, and love, and wisdom, and patience, and humility of a master, shining like the stars in heaven, it draws forth their hearts to bless the Lord that ever they came into such a family. – When men’s graces shine as Moses’ face did, when their life, as one speaketh of Joseph’s life, is a very heaven, sparkling with virtues as so many bright stars, how much others are stirred up to glorify God, and cry, ‘These are Christians indeed! these are an honour to their God, a crown to their Christ, and a credit to their Gospel! Oh, if they were all such, we would be Christians too!” – T. Brooks, 1661. (Unsearchable Riches.)
There are marks by which growth in grace may be known
- Increased humility. The nearer he draws to God, and the more he sees of God’s holiness and perfection, the more thoroughly is he sensible of his own countless imperfections. The riper he is for glory, the more, like the ripe corn, he hangs down his head. The brighter and clearer is his light, the more he sees of the shortcomings and infirmities of his own heart.
- Increased faith and love towards our Lord Jesus Christ. Growing in grace makes the Christian sees a thousand things in Christ of which at first he never dreamed. His love and power – His heart and His intentions – His offices as Substitute, Intercessor, Priest, Advocate, Physician, Shepherd, and Friend, unfold themselves to a growing soul in an unspeakable manner.
- Increased holiness of life and conversation. The Christian is not content with old attainments and former grace. He forgets the things that are behind and reaches forth unto those things which are before, making “Higher!” “Upward!” “Forward!” “Onward!” his continual motto.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13, NIV)
- Increased spirituality of taste and mind. The ways, and fashions, and amusements, and recreations of the world have a continually decreasing place in his heart. He does not condemn them as down right sinful, nor say that those who have anything to do with them are going to hell. He only feels that they have a constantly diminishing hold on his own affections, and gradually seem smaller and more trifling in his eyes.
- Increase of charity (love towards others). His love will show itself actively in a growing disposition to do kindnesses, to take trouble for others, to be good-natured to everybody, to be generous, sympathising, thoughtful, tender-hearted, and considerate.
- Increased zeal and diligence in trying to do good to souls. The man who is really growing will take greater interest in the salvation of sinners every year. One of the surest marks of spiritual decline is a decreased interest about the souls of others and the growth of Christ’s kingdom.
The means that must be used by those who desire to grow in grace
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17, NIV)
- Cast away for ever the vain thought that if a believer does not grow in grace it is not his fault.
- The use of private means of grace. By these I understand such means as a man must use by himself alone, and no one can use for him: private prayer, private reading of the Scriptures, and private meditation and self-examination. Wrong here, a man is wrong all the way through!
- The use of public means of grace: regular Sunday worship, the uniting with God’s people in common prayer and praise, the preaching of the Word, and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. It is a sign of bad health when a person loses enjoyment for his food; and it is a sign of spiritual decline when we lose our appetite for means of grace.
- Watchfulness over our conduct in the little matters of everyday life. When a tree begins to decay at root or heart, the bad result is first seen at the extreme end of the little branches. We must aim to have a Christianity which, like the sap of a tree, runs through every twig and leaf of our character, and sanctifies all.
- Caution about the company we keep and the friendships we form. Disease is infectious, but health is not.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NIV)
- Regular and habitual communion with the Lord Jesus. It is possible to have “union” with Christ, and yet to have little if any “communion” with Him. The names and offices of Christ, as laid down in Scripture, appear to me to show unmistakably that this “communion” between the saint and his Saviour is not a mere fancy, but a real true thing. Between the “Bridegroom” and his bride – between the “Head” and His members – between the “Physician” and His patients – between the “Advocate” and His clients – between the “Shepherd” and His sheep – between the “Master” and His scholars – there is evidently implied a habit of familiar intercourse, of daily application for things needed, of daily pouring out and unburdening our hearts and minds.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NIV)
- Do you know anything whets0ever about growth in grace? Awake before it be too late; awake, and arise from the dead, and live to God.
- Have you made little or no progress since you were first converted? Does it seem that you have “become complacent?” (Zephaniah 1:12.) Are you going on from year to year content with old grace, old experience, old knowledge, old faith, old measure of attainment, old religious expressions, old set phrases? You are living far below your privileges and responsibilities? Resolve this very day that you will find out the reason of your standstill condition. Probe with a faithful and firm hand every corner of your soul.
- You might be really growing in grace, but no even know it. We can never have too much humility, too much faith in Christ, too much holiness, too much spirituality of mind, too much charity, too much zeal in doing good to others. Then let us be continually forgetting the things behind, and reaching forth unto the things before. The best of Christians in these matters is infinitely below the perfect pattern of his Lord. Whatever the world may please to say, we may be sure there is no danger of any of us becoming “too good.” At our very best we are far worse than we ought to be. There will always be room for improvement in us. We shall be debtors to Christ’s mercy and grace to the very last. Let us not be surprised if we have to go through much trial and affliction in this world. Sickness, and losses, and crosses, and anxieties, and disappointments seem absolutely needful to keep us humble, watchful, and spiritual-minded. They are as needful as the pruning knife to the vine, and the refiner’s furnace to the gold.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11, NIV)
I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6–8, NIV)
We see the Apostle Paul looking three ways – downward, backward, forward.
- Downward to the grave:
- I am like an animal brought to the place of sacrifice, and bound with cords to the very horns of the altar. The drink-offering, which generally accompanies the oblation, is already being poured out. The last ceremonies have been gone through. Every preparation has been made. It only remains to receive the death-blow, and then all is over.
- The time of my departure is at hand – I am like a ship about to unmoor and put to sea. All on board is ready. I only wait to have the moorings cast off that fasten me to the shore, and I shall then set sail, and begin my voyage.He stands upon the brink, and says “I see it all, and am not afraid.”
- “I have fought a good fight.” – There he speaks as a soldier. I have fought that good fight with the world, the flesh, and the devil, from which so many shrink and draw back.
- “I have finished my course.” – There he speaks as one who has run for a prize. I have not turned aside because of difficulties, nor been discouraged by the length of the way. I am at last in sight of the goal.
- “I have kept the faith.” – There he speaks as a steward. I have held fast that glorious Gospel which was committed to my trust. I have not mingled it with man’s traditions, nor spoiled its simplicity by adding my own inventions, nor allowed others to adulterate it without withstanding them to the face.
- “As a soldier, a runner, a steward, he seems to say, “I am not ashamed.”
- Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing
- He speaks without hesitation
- His crown is a sure thing
- He speaks as if he saw it all with his own eyes
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realised. (Hebrews 6:11, NIV)
An assured hope is a true and Scriptural thing
- It is a positive gift of the Holy Ghost, bestowed without reference to men’s bodily frames or constitutions, and a gift which every believer in Christ ought to aim at and seek after.
- The Church of Rome (wrongly) denounces assurance in the most unmeasured terms.
- There are also some true believers who (wrongly) reject assurance, or shrink from it as a doctrine fraught with danger. They consider it borders on presumption.
“True assurance is built upon a Scripture basis: presumption hath no Scripture to show for its warrant; it is like a will without seal and witnesses, which is null and void in law. Presumption wants both the witness of the Word and the seal of the Spirit. Assurance always keeps the heart in a lowly posture; but presumption is bred of pride. Feathers fly up, but gold descends; he who hath this golden assurance, his heart descends in humility.” – (Watson’s Body of Divinity, 1650)
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; (Job 19:25–26, NIV)
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3, NIV)
The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. (Isaiah 32:17, NIV)
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. (1 John 3:14, NIV)
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12, NIV)
“To be assured of our salvation is no arrogant stoutness; it is our faith. It is no pride; it is devotion. It is no presumption; it is God’s promise.” (Augustine)
- It cannot be wrong to feel confidently in a matter where God speaks unconditionally – to believe decidedly when God promises decidedly – to have a sure persuasion of pardon and peace when we rest on the word and oath of Him that never changes.
- A Christian believes the Lord Jesus means what He says, and takes Him at his Word. Assurance after all is no more than a full-grown faith.
“If the ground of our assurance rested in and on ourselves, it might justly be called presumption; but the Lord and the power of His might being grounded thereof, they either know not what is the might of His power, or else too lightly esteem it, who account assured confidence thereon presumption.” – Gouge’s Whole Armour of God.
“Never did a believer in Jesus Christ die or drown in his voyage to heaven. They will all be found safe and sound with the Lamb on Mount Zion. Christ loseth none of them; yea, nothing of them. (John vi. 39.) Not a bone of a believer is to be seen in the field of battle. They are all more than conquerors through Him that loved them.” (Romans 8:37. 37.) – Robert Traill.
A believer may never arrive at this assured hope, which Paul expresses, and yet be saved
- To believe and have a glimmering hope of acceptance is one thing; to have joy and peace in our believing, and abound in hope, is quite another. All God’s children have faith; not all have assurance.
- A man must feel his sins and lost estate – must come to Jesus for pardon and salvation – must rest his hope on Him, and on Him alone.
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:11, NIV)
- It seems a Christian may be troubled with fear upon fear, and doubt upon doubt. He may have many an inward question, and many an anxiety – many a struggle, and many a misgiving – clouds and darkness – storm and tempest to the very end. He reaches his desired haven weather-beaten and tempest-tossed, scarcely realising his own safety, till he opens his eyes in glory.
- Faith is the root, and assurance is the flower. Doubtless you can never have the flower without the root; but it is no less certain you may have the root and not the flower. Faith is Peter’s drowning cry, as he began to sink: “Lord save, me!” (Matthew 14:30.) Assurance is that same Peter declaring before the Council in after times, “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.” (Acts 4:11)
- Faith is the anxious, trembling voice, “Lord, I believe: help Thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24.) Assurance is the confident challenge, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Who is he that condemns?” (Romans 8:33-34.)
- He that has faith does well. They are safe. They are washed. They are justified. They are beyond the power of hell. Satan, with all his malice, shall never pluck them out of Christ’s hand. But he that has assurance does far better – sees more, feels more, knows more, enjoys more.
“All saints shall enjoy heaven when they leave this earth; some saints enjoy heaven while they are here on earth” (Joseph Caryl, 1653)
Why an assured hope is exceedingly to be desired
- Assurance is to be desired because of the present comfort and peace it affords.
- Assurance goes far to set a child of God free from this painful kind of bondage.
- Assurance makes him patient in tribulation, calm under bereavements, unmoved in sorrow, not afraid of evil tidings, in every condition content, for it gives him a fixedness of heart. It sweetens his bitter cups; it lessens the burden of his crosses; it smooths the rough places over which he travels; it lightens the valley of the shadow of death.
- General “hopes” and “trusts” are all very well to live upon while the sun shines and the body is strong; but when we come to die, we shall want to be able to say, “I know” and “I feel” The river of death is a cold stream, and we have to cross it alone. No earthly friend can help us. The last enemy, the king of terrors, is a strong foe. When our souls are departing, there is no cordial like the strong wine of assurance.
“It was a saying of Bishop Latimer to Ridley, ‘When I live in a settled and steadfast assurance about the state of my soul, methinks than I am as bold as a lion. I can laugh at all trouble: no affliction daunts me. But when I am eclipsed in my comforts, I am of so fearful a spirit that I could run into a very mouse-hole.’” (Quoted by Christopher Love, 1653)
- Assurance tends to make a Christian an active working Christian.
- None, generally speaking, do so much for Christ on earth as those who enjoy the fullest confidence of a free entrance into heaven, and trust not in their own works, but in the finished work of Christ.
- He looks at the everlasting covenant sealed with blood, at the finished work, and never-broken word of his Lord and Saviour, and therefore counts his salvation a settled thing.
“Assurance would make us active and lively in God’s service: it would excite prayer, quicken obedience. Faith would make us walk, but assurance would make us run – we should think we could never do enough for God. Assurance would be as wings to the bird, as weights to the clock, to set all the wheels of obedience a-running.” – Thomas Watson.
Moses: an example
By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:23–26, NIV)
What Moses gave up and refused
Moses gave up three things for the sake of his soul
He refused rank and greatness
If he had been content with the position in which he found himself at the Egyptian court, he might easily have been among the first (if not the very first) in all the land of Egypt. To be somebody, to be looked up to, to raise themselves in the scale of society, to get a handle to their names – these are the very things for which many sacrifice time, and thought, and health, and life itself. But Moses would not have them as a gift. He turned his back upon them. He refused them. He gave them up!
He refused pleasure
Egypt was a land of artists, a residence of learned men, a resort of everyone who had skill, or science of any description.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15–17, NIV)
Pleasure is the shadow which all alike are hunting – high and low, rich and poor, old and young, one with another – each, perhaps, pretending to despise his neighbour for seeking it – each in his own way seeking it for himself – each secretly wondering that he does not find it – each firmly persuaded that somewhere or other it is to be found. This was the cup that Moses had before his lips.
He refused riches
To possess money seems to hide defects – to cover over faults – to clothe a man with virtues. People can get over much, if you are rich! But here is a man who might have been rich, and would not. He would not have Egyptian treasures. He turned his back upon them. He refused them. He gave them up!
Moses did these things
- deliberately – He was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22). He knew what he was refusing
- because he was obliged; his decision was not based in any dire earthly necessity which cause him to disregard the things of this world
What Moses chose
He chose three things for the sake of his soul
- He chose suffering and affliction: He openly took part with the children of Israel. They were an enslaved and persecuted people – an object of distrust, suspicion, and hatred; and anyone who befriended them was sure to taste something of the bitter cup they were daily drinking. If ever man seemed to be choosing pain, trials, poverty, want, distress, anxiety, perhaps even death, with his eyes open, Moses was that man. Moses saw the cup of suffering that was before him if he left Pharaoh’s court, and he chose it, preferred it, and took it up.
- Moses chose the company of a despised people: He left the society of the great and wise, among whom he had been brought up, and joined himself to the Children of Israel. He who had lived from infancy in the midst of rank, and riches, and luxury, came down from his high estate, and cast in his lot with poor men – slaves, serfs, helots, pariahs, bondservants, oppressed, destitute, afflicted, tormented – labourers in the brick-kiln. Here is a man who does far more. He not merely feels for despised Israel, but actually goes down to them, adds himself to their society, and lives with them altogether. He became one with them – their fellow, their companion in tribulation, their ally, their associate, and their friend.
- Moses chose reproach and scorn: There are few things more powerful than ridicule and scorn. It can do far more than open enmity and persecution. Many a man who would march up to a cannon’s mouth, or lead a forlorn hope, or storm a breach, has found it impossible to face the mockery of a few companions, and has flinched from the path of duty to avoid it. To be laughed at! To be made a joke of! To be jested and sneered at! To be reckoned weak and silly! To be thought a fool! – There is nothing grand in all this, and many, alas, cannot make up their minds to undergo it!
Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. (Acts 7:22, NIV)
He chose to go after these things, they did not come upon him unawares
Moses was moved by a principle: he was faith-driven
He did so because he believed. God set before the eyes of his mind His own will and purpose. God revealed to him that a Saviour was to be born of the stock of Israel, that mighty promises were bound up in these children of Abraham, and yet to be fulfilled, that the time for fulfilling a portion of these promises was at hand; and Moses put credit in this, and believed. God had spoken to him, and he had faith in God’s word.
- He believed God’s promises
- He believed that with God nothing was impossible
- He believed God was all-wise
- He believed God was merciful. Faith told Moses that God was love, and would not give His people one drop of bitterness beyond what was absolutely needed.
- Faith was like a telescope to Moses
- Faith was an interpreter to Moses. It made him pick out a comfortable meaning in the dark commands of God’s handwriting, while ignorant sense could see nothing in it but mystery and foolishness.
- Faith made Moses look forward to heaven
- Faith made him understand the consequences of sin and it pleasures
- Faith made him understand the rewards for obedience to God
- Faith made Moses understand that affliction and suffering were not evils, but the school of God for training in godliness
- Faith connected him with the people of God
- Faith made Moses look forward to Christ who would be greater than him
- Faith made him understand that all the kings and kingdoms of this world will fall, but the kingdom of God will remain forever
The name of Pharaoh’s daughter has perished, or at any rate is extremely doubtful; the city where Pharaoh reigned is not known; the treasures in Egypt are gone. But the name of Moses is known wherever the Bible is read, and is still a standing witness:
Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord. (Proverbs 16:20, NIV)
You must choose God before the world
- There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and is worth nothing. You cannot be a friend of Christ and a friend of the world at the same time. You must come out from the children of this world, and be separate; you must put up with much ridicule, trouble, and opposition, or you will be lost for ever. There can be no saving faith without sacrifices and self-denial.
- Is there any cross in your Christianity? Are there any sharp corners in your religion, anything that ever jars and comes in collision with the earthly-mindedness around you? or is all smooth and rounded-off, and comfortably fitted into custom and fashion?
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow Me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25–27, NIV)
Nothing will ever enable you to choose God before the world, except faith.
- There must be a real heartfelt belief that God’s promises are sure and to be depended on; a real belief that what God says in the Bible is all true, and that every doctrine contrary to this is false, whatever anyone may say.
- You must learn to believe promises better than possessions; things unseen better than things seen; things in heaven out of sight better than things on earth before your eyes; the praise of the invisible God better than the praise of visible man.
- There must be a real abiding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The life that you live in the flesh you must live by faith of the Son of God. There must be a settled habit of continually leaning on Jesus, looking unto Jesus, drawing out of Jesus, and using Him as the manna of your soul. You must strive to be able to say:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21, NIV)
The true reason why so many are worldly and ungodly is because they have no faith.
- They do not put implicit confidence in the words that God has written and spoken, and so do not act upon them. They do not thoroughly believe hell,and so do not flee from it -nor heaven,and so do not seek it-nor the guilt of sin,and so do not turn from it – nor the holiness of God, and so do not fear Him – nor their need of Christ, and so do not trust in Him, nor love Him.
- There are many who Sunday after Sunday repeat the Creed, and yet will live all the week as if Christ had never died, and as if there were no judgment, and no resurrection of the dead, and no life everlasting at all; their lives show plainly they know not anything as they ought to know; and the saddest part of their state is that they think they do!
- A faith that does not influence a man’s practice is not worthy of the name. There are only two classes in the Church of Christ – those who believe and those who do not. The true Christian believes, and therefore lives as he does..
The true secret of doing great things for God is to have great faith.
- In walking with God, a man will go just as far as he believes, and no further. His life will always be proportioned to his faith. His peace, his patience, his courage, his seal, his works – all will be according to his faith.
- What is prayer, but faith speaking to God?
- What is Christian diligence, but faith at work?
- What is Christian boldness, but faith honestly doing its duty?
- What is holiness, but faith visible and faith incarnate?
- Faith is the root of a real Christian’s character. Let your root be right, and your fruit will soon abound. Your spiritual prosperity will always be according to your faith. He that believes shall not only be saved, but shall never thirst – shall overcome – shall be established – shall walk firmly on the waters of this world – and shall do great works.
Lot: A Beacon – He lingered
And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. (Genesis 19:16, NKJV)
What Lot was himself
Lot was a true believer – a converted person – a real child of God – a justified soul – a righteous man
… He rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)… (2 Peter 2:7–8, ESV)
- He was wounded, grieved, pained, and hurt at the sight of sin.
- He did not at length become cool and lukewarm about sin, as many do. Many a man is shocked and startled at the first sight of wickedness, and yet becomes at last so accustomed to see it, that he views it with comparative unconcern.
- Was Lot perfect? No! Was he saved? Yes! We do not despise gold because it is mixed with much dross. We must not undervalue grace because it is accompanied by much corruption.
What do we learn from Lot’s behaviour?
- Lot lingered.
- Lot knew the fearful judgment coming down on all within its walls. The angels had said plainly, “The Lord has sent us to destroy it.” (Genesis 19:13.) And yet he lingered.
- Lot believed there was danger – for he went to his sons-in-law, and warned them to flee. (Genesis 19:14) And yet, he lingered.
- Lot saw the angels of God standing by, waiting for him and his family to flee Sodom (Genesis 19:15). Yet, he lingered.
- There are many real children of God who appear to know far more than they live up to, and see far more than they practise, and yet continue in this state for many years. Wonderful that they go as far as they do, and yet go no further! They acknowledge the Head, even Christ, and love the truth. They like sound preaching, and assent to every article of Gospel doctrine, when they hear it. But still there is an indescribable something which is not satisfactory about them. They are constantly doing things which disappoint the expectations of their ministers, and of more advanced Christian friends. Marvellous that they should think as they do, and yet stand still!
- They hate the devil; but they often appear to tempt him to come to them. They know the time is short; but they live as if it were long. They know they have a battle to fight; yet a man might think they were at peace. They know they have a race to run; yet they often look like people sitting still. They know the Judge is at the door, and there is wrath to come; and yet they appear half asleep. They linger!
- These are they who get the notion into their minds that it is impossible for all believers to be so very holy and very spiritual! They allow that eminent holiness is a beautiful thing. They like to read about it in books, and even to see it occasionally in others. But they do not think that all are meant to aim at so high a standard.
- They would fain please everybody, and suit everybody, and be agreeable to everybody. But they forget they ought first to be sure that they please God.
- These are they who dread sacrifices, and shrink from self-denial. They never appear able to apply our Lord’s command, to “take up the cross,” and “cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye.” (Matthew 5:29-30)
- They spend their lives in trying to make the gate more wide, and the cross more light. But they never succeed.
- These are they who are always trying to keep in with the world. They are ingenious in discovering reasons for not separating decidedly, and in framing plausible excuses for attending questionable amusements, and keeping up questionable friendships. These are they who cannot find it in their hearts to quarrel with their besetting sin, whether it be sloth, indolence, ill-temper, pride, selfishness, impatience, or what it may. They allow it to remain a tolerably quiet and undisturbed tenant of their hearts. All is summed up in these words: “They lingered!”
The reasons that may account for Lot’s lingering
- He made a wrong choice in early life: He chose by sight, and not by faith. He asked no counsel of God, to preserve him from mistakes. He looked to the things of time, and not of eternity.
- Lot mixed with sinners when there was no occasion for his doing so: Make a wrong choice in life – an unscriptural choice – and settle yourself down unnecessarily in the midst of worldly people, and I know no surer way to damage your own spirituality, and to go backward about your eternal concerns.
- Beware of Lot’s choice! If you would not settle down into a dry, dull, sleepy, lazy, barren, heavy, carnal, stupid, torpid state of soul, beware of Lot’s choice!
- Remember this in choosing a calling, a place, or profession in life. It is not enough that the salary is high – the wages good – the work light – the advantages numerous – the prospects of getting on most favourable. It will profit you nothing to fill your purse, if you bring leanness and poverty on your soul. Think of your soul!
- Remember this in choosing a husband or wife, if you are unmarried.
- Grace is a tender plant. Unless you cherish it and nurse it well, it will soon become sickly in this evil world. It may droop, though it cannot die. The brightest gold will soon become dim when exposed to a damp atmosphere. The hottest iron will soon become cold. It requires pains and toil to bring it to a red heat: it requires nothing but letting alone, or a little cold water to become black and hard.
- there will come a cancer on your spiritual life, and eat out its vitality without your knowing it
- there will come a slow consumption on your spiritual strength, and waste it away insensibly
- at length you will wake up to find your hands hardly able to do the Lord’s work, and your feet hardly able to carry you along the Lord’s way, and your faith no bigger than a grain of mustard seed;
- and this, perhaps, at some turning point in your life, at a time when the enemy is coming in like a flood, and your need is the sorest.
What kind of fruit Lot’s lingering spirit bore at last
- Keep in mind: eminent holiness and eminent usefulness are most closely connected
- Lot did no good among the inhabitants of Sodom: He appears to have had no weight or influence with the people who lived around him. He possessed none of that respect and reverence which even the men of the world will frequently concede to a bright servant of God. His life carried no weight; his words were not listened to; his religion drew none to follow him.
- Lot helped none of his family, relatives or connections towards heaven: there was not one among them all that feared God. Lingering parents seldom have godly children. The eye of the child drinks in far more than the ear. A child will always observe what you do much more than what you say.
So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. (Genesis 19:14, ESV)
Lot left no evidences behind him when he died: The Scripture appears to draw a veil around him on purpose. There is a painful silence about his latter end. He seems to go out like an expiring lamp, and to leave an ill-savour behind him. Lingering Christians have little peace, and reach heaven, to be sure; but they reach it in poor plight, weary and footsore, in weakness and tears, in darkness and storm. They are saved, but “saved so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15.)
To walk closely with God –
- to be really spiritually-minded
- to behave like strangers and pilgrims
- to be distinct from the world in employment of time, in conversation, in amusements, in dress
- to bear a faithful witness for Christ in all places
- to leave a savour of our Master in every society
- to be prayerful, humble, unselfish, good-tempered, quiet, easily pleased, charitable, patient, meek
- to be jealously afraid of all manner of sin, and tremblingly alive to our danger from the world
these are still rare things! They are not common among those who are called true Christians, and, worst of all, the absence of them is not felt and bewailed as it should be.
Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:10, ESV)
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25, NIV)
- Would you be found ready for Christ at His second appearing – your loins girded – your lamp burning – yourself bold, and prepared to meet Him? Then do not linger!
- Would you be useful to the world in your day and generation? – Would you draw men from sin to Christ, adorn your doctrine, and make your Master’s cause beautiful and attractive in their eyes? Then do not linger!
- Would you help your children and relatives towards heaven, and make them say, “We will go with you”? – and not make them infidels and despisers of all religion? Then do not linger!
- If you are a lingerer, you must go to Christ at once and be cured. You must turn again to Christ and be healed. The way to do a thing is to do it. Do this at once!
Earnestly believe that He will yet revive His work within you! Only return from lingering, and confess your folly, and come – come at once to Christ.
Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’ ” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:13, NIV)
“Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” “Yes, we will come to you, for you are the Lord our God. (Jeremiah 3:22, NIV)