John 10: 10 “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have more abundantly.”
Some ﬁfteen minutes ago, a brother favoured me with a conﬁdential remark that sounded, I must say, rather strange. He whispered: “There is a large crowd, this evening; you were to speak on holiness, but perhaps you had better preach a Gospel sermon.” Now, my friends, I do intend to speak on holiness, but I also mean it to be a Gospel sermon—one that contains the very essence of the Gospel—the kind of address that the Apostle Peter concluded thus: “Unto you ﬁrst, God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:26).
This is what I want to present to you who may be here this evening, and are yet unconverted. I want to tell you that God has sent Jesus Christ into the world to turn you and save you now from your sins. Not only has He taken them upon Himself; not only has He redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; but He came for the very purpose of saving his people from their sins. I feel sure there are a great many unbelievers who would cease to be unbelievers-who, at any rate, would wish they were believers-if they clearly understood that Christ means not only to open heaven to them when they die, but to establish a heaven in their hearts while they live. There is, no doubt, many a man who, when we speak about his guilt, does not see it, does not feel it, or pretends not to see it and feel it; he does not think that he is so very bad. Do we tell him of heaven? He says to himself that heaven is very far off. But if that same man can be made to believe that he can be saved from his intemperance, saved from his impurity, saved from his angry passions, saved from his slothfulness, saved from any sin of which he is the slave, and from which he cannot deliver himself-I tell you, that man will listen to us, and he will want to hear more about it.
Our duty to him is, ﬁrst, to be very clear in showing him the Gospel on that point; and second, not to let our own conduct give the lie to our testimony.
Now, where shall we begin? What did Christ come into the world for? “This is a Faithful Saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”(1 Tim. 1:15). He came! And any sinner who comes to Him-whenever it may be, and wherever it may be, and whoever the sinner may be, young or old, rich or poor, educated or ignorant-He does not cast out. And if He does not cast out the sinner who comes to Him, then He keeps him within the sanctuary of his salvation.
What next?-It is strange that some texts should be so often quoted, and others so seldom. Christ has given us the following reason for his coming into the world: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). That is why He came. To give us LIFE, and to give it more abundantly-to give us the very life of God, and to put that life into our hearts.
Are there any instances of sinners who received Christ as a Saviour from sin? The same Apostle who tells us that Christ came into the world to save sinners-”of whom,” he adds, “I am chief,”-says to the Philippians, “Brethren, be followers together of me” (Phil. 3:17); and to the Corinthians, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). And lest we should not understand what he means, he writes in another Epistle, “I through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.” And when? In heaven ? Let us read a little further on: “I am cruciﬁed with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the ﬂesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:19,20).
Oh, we exclaim, but that was the Apostle Paul! And when we have said that, we seem to think we have said something; while the Apostle Paul declares that what God did for him, He did “for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting” (1 Tim. 1:16). More than that: we know from the very pen of the Apostle that some of those converted heathen at Philippi walked just as he did. “Mark them which walk, so as ye have us for an ensample” (Phil. 3:17).
We need not go any further to establish that fact. Surely what those converted heathen could get from the Lord at that time, we can get now. If we do not, it is our own fault; it is our own unbelief. I would say to every sinner, “Take God at his word. Read the word of God for yourselves. Come to the Lord Jesus Christ, and ask Him to be to you, now and henceforth, all that He has promised to be, and all that He wants to be. Then you will know, indeed, that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Now, I wish to have a word with believers-with those who know the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet who also know and feel that there is a something-they know not exactly what-that keeps them from receiving, out of his fullness, “grace for grace”;-Christians who dare not, and ought not, to say that they have no life; and yet who dare not, and ought not, to say that they have life abundantly; who at special gatherings rejoice, perhaps, but yet their fear is greater than their joy. They say to themselves, “Now I will go home, and it will be as it was before. After a few days-less than that, perhaps-the old temptations will be there again, and the old failures, and the old defeats, the old sinning, and the old shame; and, after all, my life will be very much what it was before-with this difference, that I shall have had before me once more the great and glorious promises of God; but they will not be fulﬁlled in my life, and I shall be more sad, more weak, and more disheartened than before.”
Why should it be thus? I would like to imagine for a moment that I have one such fearful Christian before me now. My talk with him might be entitled-
How shall we set about it? Well, the ﬁrst thing is, Are you determined? “Wilt thou be made whole?” Is it just a wish, as a man might wish to be rich without working for it at all, or wish to have a beautiful house suddenly falling from the sky before him? Or is it that you are determined, cost what it may, to know the fullness there is in Christ for you?
One day the Lord Jesus Christ had a great crowd following Him; and , seeing the multitude, He turned and said unto them, “If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). As much as to say, “If any man will be my disciple, let him count the cost.” The lesson is emphasized by means of two parables. The Lord does so in very kindness and mercy to us. He will not delude or disappoint us. He wants us to know beforehand what we are about.
Is this, then, what you mean,-truly this: that at whatever cost, even if your own family be against it; even if you should have to give yup your present occupation, it may be; even if it should cost you a great deal of money, you want to get all that Christ is willing to give you? That is a great question. Examine that question in the light of God’s Word; ask Him to probe you, to search you and know your heart; to try you and know your thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in you-whether you are deceiving yourself or not, when you say you wish to live the life of Christ.
But you answer, “Yes, I understand, and I agree. I have counted the cost; I wish nothing better than to give up myself, come what may, to my Saviour and Master.” Oh, then there is good news for you; and the good news is this; that whatever is in Christ belongs to you; that you have a perfect right-yea, it is your bounden duty-to take hold of Christ, and all that He is, and all that He has, and say, “It is mine.” Not because you deserve it in the least, but because He loves you, because He is the Saviour, because He is the Life, contained from everlasting in the bosom of the Father, and given to the world; poured out for the world in his death, and imparted to the world through his resurrection-the free gift of God.
But do not think that there is something to be added to the Lord Jesus Christ. Whenever we endeavour to add something to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are subtracting something from it. No, there is nothing to be added to Christ; but do we know what is in Christ ?
We have heard, it may be, of a number of Christians who have received a new lift, if you please to call it so, in their spiritual life, within the last three or four years. I have seen a good many of them, and if I may venture to say this much in passing-and I think I ought to say it at this moment-I have received such a lift myself, in the goodness of God, and through the ministry of one of his servants. Well, what is it? It is just having one’s eyes opened to see that there is a great deal more in Christ for us actually and practically, than we ever suspected.
Suppose a father gave his son, who is about to travel, a purse-such a purse as I hold in my hand. And we will suppose the son’s eyesight is rather weak; he does not see things distinctly. We must also suppose him to be very young and not very intelligent. Arriving in Dublin, and opening his purse, he begins to count what is in it. In one corner he ﬁnds two half-crowns, in another three shillings, and in another a sixpence, and so on. Well, he complains, “That won’t carry me very far; it will do for a day or two in this neighbourhood, but I cannot go to London, still less to Paris, with that.” Some friend overhearing him, observes: “This is a peculiar purse your father has given you; you have not looked at it very closely; you have examined three pockets only, but there is yet another one. You have failed to perceive this inner partition. There, open it. What do you see now? It is full of gold; as much gold as you may need for your whole journey.” “Oh,” says the young fellow, “that is quite a new thing!” New! To be sure, it is new to him; but the gold had been in his pocket, unknown and unemployed, all the time.
That is precisely what has been coming to pass in the experience of many Christians. They have been counting over their shillings. They had a little silver, not much. Some one came and told them-God be praised!-just to look at Christ, and to what the Scriptures say about Christ, and whether there was not laid up for them, in Him, untold riches-”gold tried in the ﬁre.” They looked, for instance, at the passage in I Cor. 1:30, and they read, “Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom”-yes, they understood that-”and righteousness,”-oh, of course, they understood that; not a shred of their own righteousness: “all our righteousnesses are as ﬁlthy rags”;-they knew that; perhaps they did not feel it enough, but they knew it;-”and redemption,”-oh, yes, they knew that too; by-and-by it would be complete redemption; it would be glory. . . . But now they found those other words, “and sanctiﬁcation.” They had failed to see that! they had not understood that Christ has been made unto us of God sanctiﬁcation as truly and as freely as all the rest, and that we are to make use of Him in that capacity, expecting and receiving from Him the power that puriﬁes, just as we expect and receive from Him the righteousness that justiﬁes.
Oh, is not this glorious news? Is not this Gospel? Is not this good to preach, good to hear, and better still to practice? To think that the Lord Jesus is our very life-and that we may, and that we must, draw upon Him all the time, for great things and for little things, for guidance and for strength, for peace, for purity, for joy, for every good gift!
Must I-need I-answer every question that presents itself? I have asked a friend to put some of them down in writing for me.
Well, one question is this: What about the means of grace? The means! Why, of course we must use the means. Jesus Christ is our life, but does that imply that the life is not to be cultivated? You do not give life to any plant in your garden, but you need to cultivate the plant, to water it, to weed around it, to do whatever needs to be done. Just so the Lord Jesus Christ tells us to “search the Scriptures,” to “ watch,” to “pray;” and the Apostle says, “Pray without ceasing.” Indeed, the Lord Himself gives the same command: “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.” Again, He says, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the ﬂesh is weak” (Matt. 24:41). Not only does faith, as the one way of holiness (the way, I say, not the source), not prevent us from using means, but it is the one great inducement to use means, because then we expect something from the use of the means. We know that we are not spending our labour in vain.
Another question: What about the ﬂesh? Ah! indeed, what about the ﬂesh? I think that sometimes one has not been careful enough to make it very apparent that “in us, that is, in our ﬂesh, dwelleth no good thing;” that the ﬂesh cannot be sanctiﬁed in the least degree; that the ﬂesh-the old nature-we have nothing to do with, and can do nothing with, except leave it on the cross of Christ by faith, believing what God tells us, that, by nailing his own Son on the tree, He nailed our old man there. And let us keep him there. Let us go on believing what God says. Let us treat the ﬂesh as cruciﬁed. Let us remember that this is accomplished, not by our own endeavour, nor even, strictly speaking, by our faith-for our faith is only the way to get hold of it-but by the cross of Christ, whereby the world is cruciﬁed unto us, and we unto the world. Thus alone can our old nature be kept powerless. It is not taken out of us-at least, I cannot thus understand the teachings of the Bible. The law of sin is in the members, but the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes the believer free from the law of sin and death.
This has been illustrated in a very forcible way by my friend, Mr. Hopkins. Suppose, he says, a man is in danger of drowning: some one throws a life-belt to him, and he succeeds in getting it round him. Now he ﬂoats on the water. Does the life-belt destroy the law of gravitation that was dragging him down? Not in the least. It brings in another law, the law of ﬂoating bodies; and that neutralizes the law of gravitation, and conquers it, so that the new law gets the better of the old one. But if the man were to let the life-belt go, he would at once ﬁnd out that the law of gravitation is still there. Even so the law of sin is still in the believer, but “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made him free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). Henceforth, because we are under grace, sin shall not have dominion over us. Mark what the Apostle says: “Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). For ye are under grace. So that, instead of making grace a kind of excuse for sin, he makes it the very reason why sin shall not have dominion over us.
But what about the conﬂict? Is there, then, no conﬂict? I think that I need not dwell on a point which has been admitted on all sides. There is conﬂict against the world, the ﬂesh, and the devil-conﬂict all the way through; in fact, we hardly know what conﬂict means until we begin the life of faith in earnest.
Again, one inquires whether there is any suffering in the life of faith? Of course there is suffering. How can you have the Spirit of Christ at all, and not suffer? God puts you into the furnace to make you partakers of the sufferings of Christ.
How far, it may be asked, is our own consciousness to be relied upon? On this point I must say that I think there have been mistakes made, by laying altogether too much stress on our consciousness as an evidence of our holiness. As regards our consciousness-or, more simply, our conscience-we may, we must, with the Apostle, exercise ourselves “to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and man” (Acts 24:16). And in the Epistle to the Hebrews we read: “Pray for us; for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly” (Heb. 13:18). A good conscience! Oh, to be sure! the child of God can have a good conscience before God and man. God is willing to give him that at all times. But is that conscience his touchstone? And because it does not happen to accuse him of any particular transgression, can he stand up and say, “I am sinless”? Not that I know a man who ever did say that; but if any one were to do so, I think it would be, to say the least of it, the strangest and most dangerous illusion imaginable; for the more a man’s conscience becomes deadened, the less it will accuse him; the more, therefore, he will be satisﬁed with his spiritual condition if he looks no further than his consciousness. No, that will not do at all. Our conscience we must keep good, but it is not our standard; our standard is the Word of God.
Besides, even if, looking into our heart and life, we should not see-surely all of us do see something to blame, why, what of that? It is not what we think of ourselves that gives us our character; it is what God thinks of us. If even an angel came and said, “You are pure in the sight of God,” well might the answer be,” You are no judge of it. It is only God who can tell.” And in that sense, when we think of God and the holiness of God, then to speak of perfection in any other than the Bible meaning-for the words “perfection “ and “perfect“ are in the Bible-to speak of it as of actual sinlessness appears to me too absurd for discussion.
Another debated point refers to progress in the divine life. Some people say, “If you have a good conscience, and are doing the will of God, as far as you know it, by the light of his Word, and in the strength of his Spirit-if Christ becomes the life of your soul-how is there room for progress? “I never could understand that; cannot understand it now. If you turn a bad tree into a good one, it will cease to grow? I fail to see it. Why, it is going to begin to grow! As long as Christ is not my life, that is the time when there is no progress, but mere turning round and round instead of advancing, of marching on, higher and higher, or, if you please, lower and lower, for it comes exactly to the same thing. This is what we want to have: Christ in us, and then his life to develop us, to strengthen us-ﬁrst babes in Christ, then young men, and, by-and-by fathers in Christ; and so on, till we come unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, when we see Him as He is. Room enough for progress, as you see.
To return to our immediate purpose. The hearer I am addressing interrupts me by saying: “But at this time, practically, what am I to do?” This is what you are to do: “If you are conscious of anything in your life that is contrary to the will of God, have done with it to-day. If there is a habit-perhaps an innocent habit, as people say; but not at all innocent to you, since it is hurtful to you-have done with it. People do not reason about the health of the body as they do about the health of the soul. You never hear a person say, “Well, such and such a diet gives me fearful sickness and suffering; but it is innocent in itself, and I will continue it.” No. They say, “I will not touch it.” You must do the same with the soul. There are things that you cannot prove out of the Bible to be bad, but they are bad to you-take up too much of your time, of your mind, of your heart. Perhaps God will give them back to you by-and-by; but, for the present, let them alone.
If there is one duty you are neglecting, do it now. There was once a man who came to a Swiss pastor, and remarked to him, “ My dear sir, I do not know what is the matter with me; my spiritual life is weak and miserable. I do not seem to be making progress.” The pastor got into a talk with him and said, “You have, doubtless, family worship?” “No,” he replied, “I know I ought to have it; I have known it for years.” “And you say you do not know what is the matter! The matter is, you are neglecting a plain duty. Have your family worship to-night.” The man did so, and found peace.
Just so with a great many Christians. There is something in their life that they know is wrong, and they will not give it up, You must take your idol, whatever it is-perhaps a beautiful idol-to God, and give it up, throw it away. You must not keep it one instant longer. If it be a right eye, pluck it out; if it be a right hand, cut it off; and then do not keep it, do not embalm it, but “cast it from you.” You will see if that does not bring freedom, and strength, and joy.
“But do you mean to say a man can be sanctiﬁed suddenly? “Suddenly! What does that signify? What I do mean is simply that a man can come to a crisis, to a decision, to something precise and deﬁnite-can say to God: “Now, O God, I will obey Thee; what wilt Thou have me to do?” That is what the Apostle Paul did. He did not know much at the time, did not even know whose voice it was that spoke. He learned to know it well, before long. But as soon as Christ spoke to him, he replied, “What wilt Thou have me to do?” Call it what you please-true conversion or true consecration-that is, giving up oneself into the hands of the Lord, to do his will.
And now, my dear friend, will you not decide? Will you not ask God at once to take out of your heart and life the slightest thing that offends in his sight? Will you not, as a soldier, buckle on your armour, and in the strength of the Lord stamp on every temptation as it rises? Then you shall see that this is not all talk and sentiment, but downright reality; that the Saviour is as living and as faithful as He ever was. The faithlessness is in us. “Lord, we believe; help Thou our unbelief!”
I conclude with these words of Scripture: “Abstain from all appearance of evil; and the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:22-24).
And, after you have begun thus to cling to Him, and rest on Him alone-if Satan steals a march upon you, if you are deluded again and fall again, do not be disheartened; do not say it was all a mistake. Return at once to Him. “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 2:1 1:9)