“What you have as heritage, take now as task; for thus you will make it your own”. - Goethe
"Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways... and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." - Jer. 6:16
Dear Fellow Christian Gentlemen,
We stand at the edge of a epoch-changing time in our history. The lot has been cast. It has fallen to us to be the generation of men upon which much, if not all, of our future will be written. As I pen these words, the very foundation of our society is crumbling to the ground around us. Rampant demagoguery, decadence, and degeneracy has befallen us and we find ourselves pressed sorely under the hard Providences of a holy and righteous God. The spiritual weaponry of Christ's and our enemies are being wielded this very moment. The tips of their spears and the edges of their swords have been shaped and sharpened; anxious to draw your blood (if only figuratively for the moment). No one remains safe. God's enemies are eagerly anticipating the death and destruction of the Christian man. They long to see an end to all that the Christian holds precious and dear. The enemy's joy and satisfaction, his glorious victory will only be realized as your faith, your convictions, the people and possessions you treasure most (and if needs be your life), along with the ideals you value and the principles upon which you stand united with your brothers in Christ are completely wiped from the face of the earth, stricken from history, and covered in the fullness of the wickedness and depravity of fallen man.
The gauntlet has been thrown down. A challenge has been given. The prince of the power of this world and his minions have rallied together on the field of battle and they are relentlessly determined to send you to your demise. Therefore it is here and it is now that we, as men standing firm upon our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, must answer the call to service in our Master's army. It is now that serious conviction must root out flaccid complacency. Righteous principle must triumph over godless apathy. Fear must flee in the face of a fierceness and determination like that of our once honorable forefathers. It is up to this generation of would-be-warriors to face our enemies on the battlefield, robed in the full armor of God, and prepared to live, or if needs be die, for the cause of Christ! What we, dear brethren, have as a rich and precious heritage, the faith handed down to us, we must now take as our calling and task. Only then do we make it our own. There is an old path, a better way. There is the grace of God and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit to quicken and strengthen us for what lies ahead. Be it in our coveted churches, in our homes and by our firesides, or in the realm of public opinion, civil affairs and cultural controversy, may we be found fighting the good fight of the Faith once delivered to us by the beloved saints.
The hour is at hand. The time has come. Chose this day whom you will serve. May the men of God in my generation, those of this era, be found faithful in their calling. May history record of many great deeds done, of higher and more nobler victories won, and of the mighty advancement of God's kingdom accomplished at the hearts and hands of my fellow brothers. Yes, we may stand at the edge of an epoch-changing time. Yes, if we fail to act today, the heritage we leave for tomorrow's children may be one of dread, despair and shame. But there is hope! Greater is He that is in you, then he that is in the world. Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861) was an English writer, author and poet. One of his best known works was a rousing call to tired soldiers to keep up the good fight entitled, "Say not the struggle nought availeth". Be encouraged my brothers. Trust in God and you will find rest for your soul. I leave you with Mr. Clough's though-provoking poem. Will you join me?
"Say not the struggle nought availeth, the labor and the wounds are in vain,
the enemy faints not, nor faileth, and as things have been, things remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars; it may be, in yon smoke concealed,
your comrades chase e'en now the fliers, and, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking, seem here no painful inch to gain,
far back through creeks and inlets making, came silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only, when daylight comes, comes in the light,
in front the sun climbs slow, how slowly, but westward, look, the land is bright!"
Post tenebras lux,
Please turn with me if you would in your Bibles to John chapter 6. Our text this morning will be verses 35-40. John 6:35-40;
The tone of Jesus' ministry changes here with these verses. Up to this point in His ministry, Jesus has said and done several noteworthy things. Consider with me, there were the discourses both with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethsaida, feed the multitudes in the mountains of Judea, and as we saw last week, calmed the fears of the disciples through His miraculous walking upon the waters of the Sea of Capernaum out to their boat.
But now, the tone of Jesus ministry changes. With the passage before us, our Lord appears to be moving towards explaining more of the theological or doctrinal aspects of His ministry. He looks to be moving towards a deeper level of discourse. In other words, Jesus seems to be teaching and explaining more about the significance and purpose of His person and His work in the life of His ministry on earth. And He begins with one of the great "I AM" statements found in Scripture. In verse 35, Jesus speaking of Himself states, "I AM Bread of Life". Now, still having fresh in their minds the miracle of the fishes and bread in their minds, Jesus uses this miraculous work to illustrate the spiritual principle that those who come to Him will never lack any good thing - He says they'll never hunger nor thirst - not for physical food, but of eternal life.
Notice then in verses 37-40, our Lord begins to explain a very important set of principles in the life of those who do come to Him. Here is the first principle: He teaches we are given to Him by the Father (vs. 37). In other words, as we come to Christ, we do so because the Father has purposed and willed it to be so. Secondly, and this will be our theme for today, those who the Father gives to the Son belong to Him and under no circumstances will He cast them out, that is to say, once we belong to Christ we are His now and forever more.
In verse 38, Jesus reiterates something He has mentioned on several occasions - that His work and words are the will of God - that He came "down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." And that the Father's will was not only to give Jesus a peculiar people, not only to draw from men certain of those who would believe on Him, but that of those who come, look at verse 39; "all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day."
Now I mentioned our focus would be on that second principle. This important principle is presented by Jesus in a couple of places, both in verses 37 and 39 of this passage. In verse 37 Jesus says, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out". And in verse 39 He states, "of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing". Both of these phrases are saying much the same thing.
The principle being taught here in these verses sometimes go under different names. Some of you might have heard it as the doctrine of "eternal security", or others of you might know it was "once saved always saved". If you were to study some of the older church confessions and creeds, you would read of the "perseverance of the saints". All these, to a greater or lesser degree, seek to capture the essence of what our Lord Jesus is here teaching the people of His day in that we can have assurance of our place in the kingdom of God, and our place in His kingdom as assured.
This is a Biblical principle. As the people of God, we can have assurance of our salvation. 2 Pet. 2:10 exhorts the believer to "give diligence to make your calling and election sure". And our passage in John today compliments this by teaching about the principle of perseverance - abiding in the Faith, and how we can know our salvation in Christ is eternal and secure. In our passage, our Lord Jesus does a great deal to dispel the dangerous and false doctrine that Christians, once being redeemed by the blood of Christ, washed of their sins, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and covenanted together with God through Christ, that they can once more fall away into condemnation. Sadly there are many denominations, churches, and professing Christians who believe and teach that true believers can fall into certain sins that remove them from a state of grace, and into apostasy to the end of life, and consequently ultimately fall into eternal condemnation. I can only image the trepidation and fear these people must struggle with on a daily basis. To have to live under the constant terror that our sins, once forgiven and removed from us, could once more rise up and condemn us is no way to live, and finds no place in God's Word.
In Romans 8:1 Paul comforts the believer with these words, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus". Paul knew of no condemnation for those found in Christ. There condemnation has been lifted. Their sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west. And they have found peace with God through Christ Jesus. In spite of this, the Roman Catholic Church, for example, states in their official teachings, "If any person shall say that a man who has been justified cannot lose grace, and that, therefore, he who falls and sins was never truly justified, he shall be accursed." In other words, the Catholic church teaches that those once justified and in a state of God's grace, and fall away - and those that teach otherwise should themseleves be condemned.
Well, I say let the Roman Catholic church be condemned for teaching a doctrine contrary to the Word of God! The Words of Christ are clear, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out". Yet Rome, and even many Protestant churches profess Jesus does cast out those who have come to Him by grace through faith. Some say you can fall in and out of grace - you can be saved on moment, lost the next, and saved the next. In my mind this makes God out to be some kind of devil - torturing people with some kind of "on/off" switch to salvation - on one moment off the next. To all those who contradict our Lord's teaching here repentance is in order and a turning to the truth. So, the fist principle I believe our Lord is conveying here in our passage in John 6 is; True believers will persevere in the faith, and those who are bought by Christ, He will in no way cast out.
Danger of Grievous Sin
Yet, I feel the emphasis of Jesus' Words also warrant a warning to the believer. The fact we can take assurance of our salvation, that the implication that true followers of the Lord Jesus are kept by Him for now and evermore is not license to live as we please. The reality of falling into deep and abiding sin. The London Baptist Confession of Faith states the danger to the believer this way saying the Christian, "through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalence of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, [may] fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God's displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves..."
So while we should take comfort from the doctrine of perseverance, we ought not to take advantage of it, not believing there is the possibility of deep, grievous and hurtful sin that can occur in the life of the true believer.
Possibility of False Conversion
Additionally, I feel our Lord's words warrant another warning - a warning about a false conversions. Many in the visible Church are merely nominal Christians - Christians by name only. They are joined to the Church by an outward profession; but they are not savingly united to Christ by His inward possession. As the Scriptures say, they assume a form of godliness, but are strangers to its power. And of these we must conclude of all those who fall totally and finally away, that they were never really "rooted and grounded in Christ." Again the Bible speaks of those who "went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest, that they were not all of us."–1 John ii. 19. This is the perseverance of the saint spoken of in John 6 by our Lord Jesus.
Finally, I want to encourage the Christians here at Christ Covenant. I want to say that I believe in eternal security, I don't believe that true believers can fully or finally fall away from the faith. And I believe that the perseverance of the saints ought to be a fundamental doctrine taught in every church.
Yet, I also don't believe we ought to stop with merely persevering. When I think of preserves, I think of a jars of jam or jelly just sitting in the cubbard. In my mind, and maybe in yours, the notion of perseverance seems to indicate we're simply hanging on - barely making it, sitting around, and in a constant struggle just to stay in the faith. What I want to suggest to you is that perseverance ought to produce proliferation. In other words, I'm saying we ought to use the glorious reality of our perseverance is the basis for the proliferation of the our faith in every area of life.
I want to take perseverance to the next level - if you will - to the proliferation of God's Word over us, our church, and eventually the world. God has grant us rest in our salvation that may we never rest in our high calling of transforming the kingdoms of this world into the Kingdom of Christ. Let us, by faith, press forward towards that mark that all the fullness of Christ might be made know and manifest unto every creature. In writing to Titus, Paul tells us "[Christ] gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purifies unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
May it therefore be our prayer that the beautiful doctrine of the perseverance of the saints produce in us the faith unto the proliferation of the Gospel of Christ in all we say and in all we do. Amen.