By Tom Wells
When Father says to Johnny, "Come here!" he may only want Johnny for a moment. After that Johnny may return to his games. And that is what Johnny will do. He will run off with his friends to the fields or to the streets, while Father goes back to his chores. "Come here" or "Come to me" may mean no more than that.
But if this father is estranged from his son - what then? Then "Come to me" may hide (or reveal) a longing to bring Johnny to his side for ever, to heal the old wounds, to re-create a "closeness" between father and son. All of that, and much more, might be bound up in the phrase, "Come to me". The "closeness" would not be mere physical closeness, of course. It would be that sympathy of feeling and enjoyment of one another that we call "love". Father would not seek it temporarily, either. He would want it to go on as long as they both should live.
Now all of this is a parable for us. It is a picture of the picture between God and man that Jesus means to heal in saying, "Come to Me". "Let us establish a mutual love," He says, "And let us do it for ever!"
All through this book I have been urging you to turn to Christ. I have told
you that I am saying what Christ Himself has said. The words "Come to Me"
are His words. But there is a dimension about them of which, so far, I have
said little or nothing. lam speaking of the idea contained in the words "for
ever". Let me put two facts side by side, in order to make plain what I mean.
Then I will talk about each in turn.
You will see at once that these two statements vary by only one word. Yet that one word is supremely important. Both statements are true, but they are quite different. One sentence speaks of your responsibility. You must come forever. That is a huge demand. You dare not take it lightly. But once you have understood what that means, then there is this other thing that is also true. If you come to Christ, you will come for ever. In saying that I have left off speaking of your responsibility. I am speaking instead about the gracious power of God. Let us look at these two things, one at a time.
If you come to Christ, you must come for ever. That is what you are responsible to do. But what does that mean? It means two things. First of all, it tells you what your intention must be at the outset of your Christian life. Have you seen a sign that says, "You've tried everything else, why not try Christ?" Well, that is emphatically not the spirit of Christianity! You are not to try Christ for a day or a week or a year as though He were some patent medicine to be cast aside if He does not quite do what you hoped He would do. That whole notion cannot be squared with the fact that Christ is Lord. You do not "try" Him; you submit to Him! That is another thing entirely.
"You must come forever", means one thing more. It means that you must go on with Christ in the midst of trial. You must stick it out. You must carry out your intention to serve Him for ever. You are not to be enticed by the allurements that Satan is certain to throw in your path. You must treat them as so many temptations to be resisted - to death, if necessary. "No one", Jesus said, "who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). You must never turn back!
All of this is just the kind of thing that marriage calls for. Marriage is a parable of the Christian life. God made it that way. I am speaking, of course, of marriage as God designed it. I know as well as you do the sort of mess that many among us have made of it. But the Lord told us what to do about marrying, and what He said is plain enough. It includes the command of Christ: "What God has joined together, let man not separate" (Mark 10:9). In the wedding vows this is summed up with the words, "Till death do us part!" That is as near to "For ever!" as two people in this world can get.
Since it is no accident that these two things - our relationship to Christ and the relationship of husband and wife - are alike, let us compare them. First, God forbids trial marriages. You must intend to stay with the one you have chosen until death separates you. That is a chief point. And then, second, you must carry that intention out. It is to be done with love and affection, the kind of attitudes that lead to serving your life-mate.
I realize that many already have failed at both of these points in their marriages. Some of my readers may have been married more than once. That is not at all unusual in these days. If that is your case, you need the Savior, Jesus Christ! There is forgiveness with Him for all sin, including sins against husband or wife. But I am not speaking here of marriage, except as it pictures the Christian's relation to the Lord Jesus. There can be no trial union with Christ. You must settle that in your heart at the outset. And that is not all. From that time on, you are to serve Him with love and affection. You must not think of turning back! It is not faith, but doubt, that leads a man or woman to leave a back-door open, a way out. There can be no retreat for the child of God. That is what I mean when I say, "If you come to Christ, you must come to Him forever."
Now here is the other side of the coin. This too is true: if you come to Christ you will come to Him for ever. You will not turn back. God will not allow you to do so. It is not simply that He will forbid it. No, in His grace and goodness He will gently draw you nearer and nearer to Himself and to His Son. You are not to enter the Christian life with confidence in your ability to hold out. That would be foolish. You have no power to do anything, much less to persevere in faith throughout life. You must aim to go on with Christ and never to give up following Him. But you must not suppose for an instant that you are powerful enough to manage it. Your confidence must be in Christ. Your hope of success must lie in God.
There is a great difference between our aim and our power to achieve our aim. It is like driving my automobile. When I climb into the front seat and start the engine I have a goal in mind. I want to get to Louisville or to Dayton. That is my aim. But that is not all I need. I must also have gasoline to take me there. If I were foolish enough to imagine that my good aim would take me to another city, I could sit there for ever and never make any progress. And so the Christian aims to follow Christ with all his heart. That is his goal. But the power to follow must come from Christ Himself. It must be the power of God. Will He give it? Indeed He will!
Let us hear Christ on this subject:
And let us add some words from the apostle Paul:
Taken together these verses encourage us in three ways. First, they show that Jesus is a determined Savior. He has made up His mind to bring all His people to Himself. He has set Himself to lose none, but to raise them all up and to give each of them eternal life. He will make no exceptions - not one!
Secondly, Paul's words point up the path that Jesus means to take us along. It is a way of willing and acting according to God's will. Here, however, is the thing to note. The Christian is not left to himself. Certainly he must "work out" his salvation. He must push on in godliness and righteousness. But there is something that lies behind his efforts. "It is God," Paul says, "who works in you!" And what is it that He does? "God . . . works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." What more could a believer ask? Here is our hope of holding out, of going on. We do not trust ourselves. We have no power. Power belongs to God, not to ourselves. We look to God!
Finally, there is a third thing in these verses to cheer us and to draw us on. It is hinted at in the phrases, "All that the Father gives me," and "all that he has given me." Here Jesus offers us a glimpse into His own relation to His Father. Behind these words stands an enormous truth that explains, in part, the sure grip with which God holds believers. That truth is this: God loves His Son and has promised Christ a people for Himself that no man can number. God means to keep that promise, though all hell oppose it.
One New Testament writer tells us that Jesus went to the cross with a great future joy in sight. Here are his words:
What was that joy? No doubt it was His exaltation. His sitting down to rule at the right hand of His Father. But that is not all: there is more. Jesus' joy will not be complete until He has all around Him the men and women and children that He redeemed at the cross. Listen to this. Jesus is speaking:
Do you suppose that the Father will refuse Jesus this request? No, He will not! He will not turn a deaf ear to Jesus' prayer because that moment is the goal toward which all human history has been moving. From the instant Adam rebelled, God has been working to restore men and women to Himself. He has looked forward to the day when Christ will be Lord of all, when Jesus will have all His children around Him admiring His glory, and when all those who have defied His lordship are cast away for ever. God has been steering toward that hour. He has not hurried. Quite often no human eye could have traced His path. But that did not matter. It does not matter now. What is important is the certainty that God will reach His goal. That is as sure as God Himself.
Will you be one of the company who admire Christ in that day? If so, you must come to Him now. Trust in Jesus Christ! Do you have sins to be forgiven? Who can forgive them but the Son of God? Do you lack power over your sin? Where will you get it but at His feet? "Come to me," Jesus said, and He meant it. Do you need Christ as Savior and Lord and Sustainer, and do you feel that need? Then come! Come just as you are. "All that the Father gives me will come to me," said Jesus. That shows God's side of the work. But what if you come halting and trembling and fearful that you will not be welcome? What, then? Well, here is the promise for you: "and whoever comes to me I will never drive away!" Those, too, are Jesus" words. Come to Him, and make them your very own!
Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
Let not conscience make you linger,
(Joseph Hart, 1712-1768)