By Tom Wells
CHAPTER 12: "A Closing
In these pages I have pled with you to turn to Christ. Very likely we have never met. Yet I wanted to do for your soul what others - some of them strangers to me - have done for mine. I could not do more; I would not do less. My prayer as I write this is: "Open my reader's mind, Lord, whoever he or she may be, to see the attractiveness of Jesus Christ!" May God grant my request!
And if you come to Christ, what then? Well, then you are His slave as well as His beloved. And that requires that you henceforth serve Him with joy and gratitude - for ever. Nothing less will do as a goal, though you may often stumble.
But where will you find His will for you? If you are to serve Him, what are you to do?
There is a simple answer to this question, but it is not an easy answer. It will demand your attention for the rest of your life. The answer is this: the Bible contains God's will for you. You must learn it; you must know what it says. And you must do it.
But how will you learn it? You will read it, of course. Let me suggest that you start by reading and thinking about the Gospel of John, the fourth book in the New Testament. That will get you under way. Read it through, from beginning to end, and do it more than once. Perhaps five or ten times would be a good start. And ask the Lord to help you understand and act on what you read.
But there is something else you must do. You must fix it in your mind that you are not to learn the Scriptures by yourself. The Bible was meant to be understood in the gathering of believers. There each has the opportunity and responsibility to correct and encourage others in their understanding. It is a great favor from God that we may own Bibles. But it is clear that that was not possible when the Scriptures were penned. The invention of printing has allowed us to have copies of God's Word. Throughout the greater part of church history, however, that was impossible for all but the very rich.
God, in His wisdom, has provided us with teachers to help us. We must not despise His provision. Rather, we must hear what they say in the congregation, week by week. The writer of Hebrews put it this way:
The prospect of the end, when God will renew the universe, is to stir us up. We must not fold our hands if we are servants of Christ. We must be faithful to Him and we must work and pray and study together. He has called us together to be His "body". We, in turn, must draw closer to other believers. We must learn from them the ways of Christ. We must listen attentively to them when they explain to us the Word of God.
Also, let me guard against one particular misunderstanding. As you may know, there was a great struggle in the sixteenth century to give the Scriptures to the common man. In that battle the cry was raised for "private interpretation" of God's Word. It is the right of every man, it was said, to interpret the Bible for himself. No Pope, nor priest, nor preacher has authority over the conscience. After all, some said, the Scriptures are clear. Each man must decide for himself the meaning of the Scriptures. And he must act accordingly!
In my judgment that battle was necessary and right. May God preserve us from falling back into the old way! We dare not allow others to know the Bible on our behalf and rest on their knowledge to take us to heaven. That would be a return to darkness!
But I must add two cautions to what! have said. The first is this. The Bible is our standard by which we are to test the teaching of others. It was never intended to replace their teaching. It was given to us to sift out the truth from the error in what we hear. I may illustrate this by an experience the Apostle Paul and others had when preaching in the Greek city Berea. They had been driven out of Thes-salonica by those who rejected Paul's message. Berea was the next stop on their tour. Keep in mind that Paul speaks with Christ's authority, as Christ's special envoy:
These Bereans are our models. They listened eagerly; so must we! But that was not all they did. They "examined the Scriptures". They checked up on Paul, to see whether what he said was in keeping with God's Word. We must do that as well.
My other caution is this. We must not misunderstand the "clarity" of Scripture about which the sixteenth-century Reformers spoke. These men were fighting for the basic elements of the gospel story. They contended that the Bible was "clear" on how a man may become right with God. And on that score they were surely correct. Every man is right with God if he trusts wholeheartedly in Jesus Christ. And no person is right with God in any other way.
But this does not mean that Scripture has no depths that are difficult to fathom. Not at all! The keenest intellect cannot find out all that God has revealed. There is always more, and more again. Yet faithful men have gone before us, exploring God's truth. We are fools if we do not seek to follow them. Only we must not follow them blindly. We must have the "Berean" spirit. We must compare their teaching with the Word of God.
How can you find a group of Christians with which to worship and study? I wish I could say simply, "Any church or chapel will do." But I am afraid that statement is much too broad. As with other organizations, there are churches and there are churches. Some sincerely seek to know God's Word; others, unhappily, are merely social clubs with Christ largely in the background. Somehow you will have to tell one from the other.
Here are my suggestions. First, if someone has given you this book as a gift you may turn to him or her for help. Ask to go with that person to the congregation where they meet with other Christians. It is likely that you will find a warm welcome. Then judge for yourself whether the group is seriously interested in knowing the Word of God. Do not fall into the trap of judging other things on that first visit. That is the key -an earnest desire to know and do God's Word.
But perhaps you purchased this book or received it from a stranger. In that case I suggest that you write to the publishers of this book for help. In most cases they will be able to direct you to a Christian not too far away. And that, in turn, should lead you to a church or chapel where you may apply the test I have described above.
This is my last chance to speak to you in this book. What shall I say? Some months ago I came across the following plea. It was written by John Mason, a seventeenth-century preacher. It is my next-to-last word to you.
My last word is the word of Jesus Christ Himself:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:27-29).