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Lords Day 9, 2010


I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord.

imageThe Feast.
Horatius Bonar (18081889)

Love strong as death, nay stronger,

Love mightier than the grave;
Broad as the earth, and longer

Than oceans widest wave.
This is the love that sought us,
This is the love that bought us,
This is the love that brought us

To gladdest day from saddest night,

From deepest shame to glory bright,

From depths of death to lifes fair height,

From darkness to the joy of light:
This is the love that leadeth

Us to his table here,
This is the love that spreadeth

For us this royal cheer.

Horatius Bonar, Hymns of Faith and Hope, First Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878).

image

John 8:2130

Then He said again to them, I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come. 22 So the Jews were saying, Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, Where I am going, you cannot come? 23 And He was saying to them, You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins. 25 So they were saying to Him, Who are You? Jesus said to them, What have I been saying to you from the beginning? 26 I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world. 27 They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said, When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him. 30 As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.

imageThis passage contains deep things, so deep that we have no line to fathom them. As we read it we should call to mind the Psalmists words,Thy thoughts are very deep. (Psalm xcii. 5.) But it also contains, in the opening verses, some things which are clear, plain, and unmistakable. To these let us give our attention and root them firmly in our hearts.

We learn, for one thing, that it is possible to seek Christ in vain. Our Lord says to the unbelieving Jews, Ye shall seek Me, and shall die in your sins. He meant, by these words, that the Jews would one day seek Him in vain.

The lesson before us is a very painful one. That such a Saviour as the Lord Jesus, so full of love, so willing to save, should ever be sought in vain, is a sorrowful thought. Yet so it is! A man may have many religious feelings about Christ, without any saving religion. Sickness, sudden affliction, the fear of death, the failure of usual sources of comfortall these causes may draw out of a man a good deal of religiousness. Under the immediate pressure of these he may say his prayers fervently, exhibit a strong spiritual feelings, and profess for a season to seek Christ, and be a different man. And yet all this time his heart may never be touched at all! Take away the peculiar circumstances that affected him, and he may possibly return at once to his old ways. He sought Christ in vain, because he sought Him from false motives, and not with his whole heart.

Unhappily this is not all. There is such a thing as a settled habit of resisting light and knowledge, until we seek Christ in vain. Scripture and experience alike prove that men may reject God until God rejects them, and will not hear their prayer. They may go on stifling their convictions, quenching the light of conscience, fighting against their own better knowledge, until God is provoked to give them over and let them alone. It is not for nothing that these words are written,Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek Me early, but they shall not find Me: for they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord. (Prov. i. 28, 29.) Such cases may not be common; but they are possible, and they are sometimes seen. Some ministers can testify that they have visited people on their deathbeds who seem to seek Christ, and yet to seek in vain.

There is no safety but in seeking Christ while He may be found, and calling on Him while He is near,seeking Him with a true heart, and calling on Him with an honest spirit. Such seeking, we may be very sure, is never in vain. It will never be recorded of such seekers, that they died in their sins. He that really comes to Christ shall never be cast out. The Lord has solemnly declared that He hath no pleasure in the death of him that dieth,and that He delighteth in mercy. (Ezekiel xviii. 32; Micah vii. 18.)

We learn for another thing, how wide is the difference between Christ and the ungodly. Our Lord says to the unbelieving Jews,Ye are from beneath, I am from above: ye are of this world, I am not of this world.

These words, no doubt, have a special application to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In the highest and most literal sense, there never was but One who could truly say, I am from above,I am not of this world. That One is He who came forth from the Father, and was before the world,even the Son of God.

But there is a lower sense, in which these words are applicable to all Christs living members. Compared to the thoughtless multitude around them, they are from above, and not of this world, like their Master. The thoughts of the ungodly are about things beneath; the true Christians affections are set on things above. The ungodly man is full of this world; its cares, and pleasures, and profits, absorb his whole attention. The true Christian, though in the world, is not of it; his citizenship is in heaven, and his best things are yet to come.

The true Christian will do well never to forget this line of demarcation. If he loves his soul, and desires to serve God, he must be content to find himself separated from many around him by a gulf that cannot be passed. He may not like to seem peculiar and unlike others; but it is the certain consequence of grace reigning within him. He may find it brings on him hatred, ridicule, and hard speeches; but it is the cup which his Master drank, and of which his Master forewarned all His disciples.If ye were of the world the world would love His own, but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John xv. 19.)Then let the Christian never be ashamed to stand alone and show his colors. He must carry the cross if he would wear the crown. If he has within him a new principle from above, it must be seen.

We learn, lastly, how awful is the end to which unbelief can bring man. Our Lord says to his enemies, If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.

These solemn words are invested with peculiar solemnity when we consider from whose lips they came. Who is this that speaks of men dying in their sins, unpardoned, unforgiven, unfit to meet God,of men going into another world with all their sins upon them? He that says this is no other than the Saviour of mankind, who laid down His life for His sheep,the loving, gracious, merciful, compassionate Friend of sinners. It is Christ Himself! Let this simple fact not be overlooked.

They are greatly mistaken who suppose that it is harsh and unkind to speak of hell and future punishment. How can such people get over such language as that which is before us? How can they account for many a like expression which our Lord used, and specially for such passages as those in which He speaks of the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched? (Mark x. 46.) They cannot answer these questions. Misled by a false charity and a morbid amiability, they are condemning the plain teaching of the Scripture, and are wise above that which is written.

Let us settle it in our minds, as one of the great foundation truths of our faith, that there is a hell. Just as we believe firmly that there is an eternal heaven for the godly, so let us believe firmly that there is an eternal hell for the wicked. Let us never suppose that there is any lack of charity in speaking of hell. Let us rather maintain that it is the highest love to warn men plainly of danger, and to beseech them to flee from the wrath to come. It was Satan, the deceiver, murderer, and liar, who said to Eve in the beginning, Ye shall not surely die. (Gen. iii. 4.) To shrink from telling men, that except they believe they will die in their sins, may please the devil, but surely it cannot please God.

Finally, let us never forget that unbelief is the special sin that ruins mens souls. Had the Jews believed on our Lord, all manner of sin and blasphemy might have been forgiven them. But unbelief bars the door in mercys face, and cuts off hope. Let us watch and pray hard against it. Immorality slays its thousands, but unbelief its tens of thousands. One of the strongest sayings ever used by our Lord was this,He that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark xvi. 16.)

J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Baker Books, 2007) [Westminster (PB) | Amazon (HC)].

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


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Posted 2010·02·28 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Expository Thoughts on the Gospels · Gospel of John · Horatius Bonar · Hymns of Faith and Hope · J C Ryle · Lord’s Day
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