Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The Rule of Service

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
John 12:26

So you are proposing to yourself that you will serve Christ, are you? You are a young man, as yet you have plenty of vigor and strength, and you say to yourself, “I will serve Christ in some remarkable way; I will seek to make myself a scholar, I will try to learn the art of oratory, and I will in some way or other glorify my Lord’s name by the splendor of my language.”

Will you, dear friend? Is it not better, if you are going to serve Christ, to ask him what he would like you to do?

Now listen: Your Lord and Master does not bid you become either a scholar or an orator in order to serve him. Both of those things may happen . . . but first of all he says, “If anyone serves me, let him follow me.”

This is what Christ prefers beyond anything else, that his servants should follow him. If we do that, we shall serve him in the way which is according to his own choice. . . .

What does the Savior mean by bidding us render to him our best service by following him?

[F]irst, I understand by these words that we are to follow Christ by believing his doctrine.

Our Lord says, practically, “If any anyone serves me, let him follow me as Teacher; let him sit at my feet, let him learn of me.” . . . [Christ] has come to be the Teacher of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, and it is only by teaching the truths which he has made known, and by publishing the message which he has revealed, that you can really be his servant. . . .

[N]ext, I think that the text means, “If anyone serves me, let him follow me by obeying my commands.”

 If you want truly to serve Christ, do not do what you suggest to yourself, but do what he commands you. Remember what Samuel said to Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” . . .

 [T]hirdly, I think that by these words our Lord means, “If anyone serves me, let him follow me by imitating my example.”

It is always safe, dear friends, to do what Christ would have done under the same circumstances in which you are placed. . . . [T]he ordinary life of Christ is in every respect an example to us. Never do what you could not suppose Christ would have done. If it strikes you that the course of action that is suggested to you would be un-Christly, then it is un-Christian, for the Christian is to be like Christ. . . .

Once more, I think the Savior means this: “If anyone serves me, let him follow me by clinging to my cause.”

Cling to the cause of Christ, dear friend, give yourself to that kingdom for which you are taught to pray, and be ready to make any sacrifice whatever that you may advance and extend it.

Yea, throw your whole self into the holy service of your Lord; make the name of Christ to be more widely known, and the cause of Christ to be further extended among the sons of men. Cling to the cause of Christ, and so carry out his own words, “If any man serve me, let him follow me.” . . .

If any man will serve Christ, let him follow Christ.

Let him put his foot down as nearly as he can where Christ put his foot down; let him tread in Christ’s steps, and be moved by his spirit, actuated by his motives, live with his aim, and copy his actions. This is the noblest way in which to serve the Lord.

From the sermon The Rule and Reward of Serving Christ, delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, June 27th, 1889

Sermon Audio: Obedience – The Fruitful Life

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more about “Obedience – The Fruitful Life“, posted with vodpod

On Sunday May 30, 2010, I had the privilege of preaching at Poplar Hill Christian Church in Poplar Hill, Ontario. Our time together was spent in Matthew 7:24-27, where we looked at the meaning and implications of Jesus’ statement at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

An MP3 is also available.

The sermon’s manuscript follows: [Read more...]

The Long Road to the Middle

Francis Chan vents about the rise of the evangelical “middle road:”

Every notice Chan’s ability to make you laugh while he’s smacking you upside the head? It’s pretty amazing stuff.

Anyway, his point is well taken. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt. 7:13-14 NIV). Yet, somehow we’ve gotten this idea into our heads that we can read the Bible, but not do what it says.

As Chan puts it in the video clip, “When we play Simon says, the leader says ‘flap your wings,’ and you flap your wings. But follow Jesus is a totally different game. When Jesus tells you to flap your wings, you can just sit there and ‘do it in your heart.’”

I wonder if the confusion, and the creation of the evangelical middle road, can be chalked up to one thing:

Fear. [Read more...]

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Faith Produces a Far-Seeing Obedience

How great a company would obey God if they were paid for it on the spot! They have “respect unto the recompense of the reward;” but they must have it in the palm of their hand.

With them—”A bird in hand is better far, than two which in the bushes are.” They are told that there is heaven to be had, and they answer that, if heaven were to be had here, as an immediate freehold, they might look after it, but they cannot afford to wait. To inherit a country after this life is over is too like a fairy tale for their practical minds.

Many there are who enquire, “Will religion pay? Is there anything to be made out of it? Shall I have to shut up my shop on Sundays? Must I alter my mode of dealing, and curtail my profits?” When they have totalled up the cost, and have taken all things into consideration, they come to the conclusion that obedience to God is a luxury which they can dispense with, at least until near the end of life.

Those who practice the obedience of faith look for the reward hereafter, and set the greatest store by it. To their faith alone the profit is exceeding great.

To take up the cross will be to carry a burden, but it will also be to find rest. They know the words, “No cross, no crown;” and they recognise the truth that, if there is no obedience here, there will be no reward hereafter. This needs a faith that has eyes which can see afar off, across the black torrent of death, and within the veil which parts us from the unseen.

A man will not obey God unless he has learned to endure “as seeing him who is invisible.”

Yet, remember that the obedience which comes of true faith is often bound to be altogether unreasoning and implicit; for it is written, “He went out, not knowing whither he went.” God bade Abraham journey, and he moved his camp at once. Into the unknown land he made his way; through fertile regions, or across a wilderness; among friends or through the midst of foes, he pursued his journey. He did not know where his way would take him, but he knew that the Lord had bidden him go.

Even bad men will obey God when they think fit; but good men will obey when they know not what to think of it. It is not ours to judge the Lord’s command, but to follow it. . . . Prudent consideration of consequences is superabundant; but the spirit which obeys, and dares all things for Christ’s sake—where is it? The Abrahams of today will not go out from their kindred; they will put up with anything sooner than risk their livelihoods. If they do go out, they must know where they are going, and how much is to be picked up in the new country.

The modern believer must have no mysteries, but must have everything planned down to a scientific standard. Abraham “went out, not knowing whither he went,” but the moderns must have every information with regard to the way, and then they will not go. If they obey at all, it is because their own superior judgements incline that way; but to go forth, not knowing whither they go, and to go at all hazards, is not to their minds at all. They are so highly “cultured” that they prefer to be original, and map out their own way.

Brethren, having once discerned the voice of God, obey without question. If you have to stand alone and nobody will befriend you, stand alone and God will befriend you.

If you should get the ill word of those you value most, bear it. What, after all, are ill words, or good words, as compared with the keeping of a clear conscience by walking in the way of the Lord?

The line of truth is narrow as a razor’s edge; and he needs to wear the golden sandals of the peace of God who shall keep to such a line. Through divine grace may we, like Abraham, walk with our hand in the hand of the Lord, even where we cannot see our way!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon The Obedience of Faith, delivered on August 21st, 1890, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Faith Creates a Prompt Obedience

Genuine faith in God creates a prompt obedience.

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed.”There was an immediate response to the command. Delayed obedience is disobedience.

I wish some Christians, who put off duty, would remember this. Continued delay of duty is a continuous sin. If I do not obey the divine command, I sin; and every moment that I continue in that condition, I repeat the sin.

This is a serious matter. If a certain act is my duty at this hour, an I leave it undone, I have sinned; but it will be equally incumbent upon me during the next hour; and if I still refuse, I disobey again and so on till I do obey. Neglect of a standing command must grow very grievous if it be persisted in for years.

In proportion as the conscience becomes callous upon the subject, the guilt becomes the more provoking to the Lord. To refuse to do right is a great evil; but to continue in that refusal till conscience grows numb upon the matter is far worse. . . .

Obedience is for the present tense: it must be prompt, or it is nothing. Obedience respects the time of the command as much as any other part of it.

To hesitate is to be disloyal.

To halt and consider whether you will obey or not, is rebellion in the germ.

If thou believest in the living God unto eternal life, thou wilt be quick to do thy Lord’s bidding, even as a maid hearkens to her mistress. Thou wilt not be as the horse, which needs whip and spur; thy love will do more for thee than compulsion could do for slaves. Thou wilt have wings to thy heels to hasten thee along the way of obedience. “Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon The Obedience of Faith, delivered on August 21st, 1890, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The Kind of Faith Which Produces Obedience

It is, manifestly, faith in God as having the right to command our obedience.

He has a greater claim upon our ardent service than he has upon the services of angels; for, while they were created as we have been, yet they have never been redeemed by precious blood.

Our glorious Incarnate God has an unquestioned right to every breath we breathe, to every thought we think, to every moment of our lives, and to every capacity of our being.

This loyalty of our mind is based on faith, and is a chief prompter to obedience.

[W]e must have faith in the rightness of all that God says or does.

If the Lord be God, he must be infallible; and if he can be described as in error in the little respects of human history and science, he cannot be trusted in the greater matters.

The words of the Lord are like fine gold, pure, precious, and weighty—not one of them may be neglected. We hear people talk about “minor points,” and so on; but we must not consider any word of our God as a minor thing, if by that expression is implied that it is of small importance.

We must accept every single word of precept, or prohibition, or instruction, as being what it ought to be, and neither to be diminished nor increased. We should not reason about the command of God as though it might be set aside or amended. He bids: we obey. [Read more...]

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Faith is the Fountain, Foundation and Fosterer of Obedience

Faith is the fountain, the foundation, and the fosterer of obedience.

Men obey not God till they believe him. We preach faith in order that men may be brought to obedience. To disbelieve is to disobey.

One of the first signs of practical obedience is found in the obedience of the mind, the understanding, and the heart; and this is expressed in believing the teaching of Christ, trusting to his work, and resting in his salvation.

Faith is the morning star of obedience. If we would work the work of God, we must believe on Jesus Christ whom he has sent.

Brethren, we do not give a secondary place to obedience, as some suppose. We look upon the obedience of the heart to the will of God as salvation. The attainment of perfect obedience would mean perfect salvation. We regard sanctification, or obedience, as the great design for which the Saviour died. He shed his blood that he might cleanse us from dead works, and purify unto himself a people zealous for good works. It is for this that we were chosen: we are “elect unto holiness.” We know nothing of election to continue in sin. It is for this that we have been called: we are “called to be saints.”

Obedience is the grand object of the work of grace in the hearts of those who are chosen and called: they are to become obedient children, conformed to the image of the Elder Brother, with whom the Father is well pleased.

The obedience that comes of faith is of a noble sort.

The obedience of a slave ranks very little higher than the obedience of a well-trained horse or dog, for it is tuned to the crack of the whip. Obedience which is not cheerfully rendered is not the obedience of the heart, and consequently is of little worth before God. If the man obeys because he has no opportunity of doing otherwise, and if, were he free, he would at once become a rebel—there is nothing in his obedience.

The obedience of faith springs from a principle within, and not from compulsion without.

It is sustained by the mind’s soberest reasoning and the heart’s warmest passion. The man reasons with himself that he ought to obey his Redeemer, his Father, his God; and, at the same time, the love of Christ constrains him so to do, and thus what argument suggests affection performs. A sense of great obligation, an apprehension of the fitness of obedience, and spiritual renewal of heart, work an obedience which becomes essential to the sanctified soul. Hence, it is not relaxed in the time of temptation, nor destroyed in the hour of losses and sufferings.

Life has no trial which can turn the gracious soul from its passion for obedience; and death itself doth but enable it to render an obedience which shall be as blissful as it will be complete. Yes, this is a chief ingredient of heaven—that we shall see the face of our Lord, and serve him day and night in his temple. Meanwhile, the more fully we obey at this present, the nearer we shall be to his temple-gate. May the Holy Spirit work in us, so that, by faith—like Abraham—we may obey!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon The Obedience of Faith, delivered on August 21st, 1890, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

Crave: Stories of Simple Obedience

Crave by Chris Tomlinson has given me a lot ot think about this week, specifically about taking steps of simple obedience, trusting God in what He’s asking me to do today.

If you’re unfamiliar with the book, you can read the review here and the first three chapters below (via Scribd). After the jump, learn how you can win a free copy of Crave.

An Act of Simple Obedience

This weekend, I’m sharing with our church about a step of obedience that we took this past Christmas, sending letters telling our families about how God used the events of 2009 to reveal more of Himself to us and grow us in our faith. [Read more...]

What's the One Thing

one-thing

What’s the one thing God is asking you to do right now—that you’re not sure you want to do?

Maybe you’re reading that question and thinking, “There’s nothing I can think of. I’m pretty sure I’m being obedient to what He’s asking.” Or maybe you’re reading the question and thinking, “Just one? Brother, I could give you a list.”

But seriously: Is there something you’re sure that God is asking of you that you don’t want to do?

Is it changing careers? Ending an unhealthy relationship? Confronting a loved one about sin you’ve noticed creeping into their lives? Confessing your own sin and asking forgiveness?

Capture whatever that thing is for a minute. Examine it. And, maybe, ask another question:

“Why am I afraid of doing this?”

What will obedience to God cost? [Read more...]

Everyday Theology: Just Listen to Your Heart

Back in the 80’s, the Swedish pop group Roxette had a hit song called “Listen to your heart.” If you were either a fan of the group (I’m sorry) or survived the 80’s relatively unscathed (except for the odd Duran Duran flashback) you might remember.

Listen to your heart—when he’s calling for you
Listen to your heart—there’s nothing else you can do

Now you remember, don’t you?

Sadly, this awful song was in my head as I sat in the Zurich Airport waiting for my connection to London Monday morning (yeah, I know). But this song reminded me of something we all too frequently think is a good idea:

Just listen to your heart.

It makes for a great…err, well, it makes for a pop song, but it’s lousy theology. Why?

Because, “my heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick!” (Jer. 17:9)

I’ve written about this subject before, but it bears repeating:

Often the worst thing we can do is listen to our hearts. Because our hearts are naturally inclined to sin, they will always lead us to things that displease God, but seem right in our own eyes. The serpent’s tempting of Eve in the garden is a perfect example. He convinced her to distrust God, that He was holding out something really good from her and Adam. The text says, “[W]hen the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Gen 3:6).

We can’t miss that—she saw that it was a delight to the eyes. It seemed like a good thing. Her feelings told her, “Go for it!”

And both she and the man did, which brings us to today; to a culture that continues to pummel us with the same message, over and over again: “Just listen to your heart. Do what feels right. You deserve it.” [Read more...]

"You Follow Me!"

follow-me

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

 John 21:20-22

Have you ever had a moment, even a brief one, where you’re in the middle of a project at work and you start thinking about… someone else. Say a friend at work. You and your friend started around the same time, and he or she is experiencing great success and you’re… well, you’re not. You’re slugging away at your job, just trying to make it through the day, and you can’t help but—just for a second—think, “Man, why does [insert name here] get all the breaks? I’m busting my tail and what do I have to show for it?”

I’ll be honest, I think about this every once in a while. I have some very talented friends, who are very gifted in many areas—including areas of ministry that I gravitate to. And in the past, I’ve found myself feeling really insecure about at least one of these folks, who I really don’t need to feel insecure around.

So I read this passage, and I was struck by the attitude of Peter. [Read more...]

Lessons from Nehemiah 7: Obedience

 

Artwork © Justin Gerard. Used with permission.

 

Nehemiah chapters 11-12 presents a list naming the people who would live in Jerusalem, those who would remain in the surrounding villages, & the dedication of the wall; this passage serves as a conclusion to the story of the repopulation of Jerusalem.

The dedication ceremony described is the culmination of everything that’s taken place over the course of the book; the wall is complete, the people have repented and turned to God, their Savior. There is much celebration and rejoicing. But as I was reading, I was left with a question…

Why are the lists of names important? Why would the Holy Spirit inspire them to be written, not just here, but throughout Scripture?

Now, we could potentially over-spiritualize it and say that these lists are representative of the Book of Life (Philippians 4:3; Revelations 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 20:15, 21:27), in which the names of all God’s people, past, present & future, are found.

And maybe that’s the reason… but maybe there’s another, practical reason for the existence of lists like we find in Nehemiah 11 & 12.

They serve to show us the fruit of obedience.

[Read more...]