By Tom Wells
Thus far in this book I have urged you to believe in Jesus Christ. I have told you what "believing in Christ" means. It means to trust Him comprehensively. The call of Christ is not simply to trust Him to do this or that for you. It is much larger. It is a call to trust all that He is, with all that you are.
At the same time I have tried to focus your attention on two things. One is Christ's conferment of forgiveness upon all who repent and believe the gospel; the other is His promise to be your Lord. Without looking at specific facets of Christ's work we might end up with a sort of sentimental attachment to Jesus that would fall far short of biblical faith. That is not what we are after. It is not possible to trust a person about whom we have only vague ideas.
But trust in Christ would soon come to nothing if we did not have something else to rest upon, something that I have not yet mentioned. I am talking about the sustaining power of the Lord Jesus. That is what I must explain to you next.
If you are at all like I am you have had an automobile that would not run. Sometimes a minor adjustment will put the thing right and get it going again. But there are times when some part of its engine has gone radically Wrong and a major overhaul is needed. Nothing else will get the job done. A "wash-and-wax" is not the answer. Either you do the work deep in the inside or you assign it to the scrap heap. It comes down to that.
Now the man without Jesus Christ is like that car. He stands in need of radical change to transform him on the inside. That is the picture I have tried to draw for you all through this book. If you do not yet belong to the Lord Jesus there is an innate rebellion in your heart against the claims of God and it will not be cured by some cosmetic change. The problem goes to the center of your being, and so must the solution. We are looking here at an overhaul and not a minor adjustment.
But here is an odd thing. Once the automobile has been thoroughly repaired it still will not run. The finest motor in the world is useless until something more than mechanical ingenuity is applied to it. It needs fuel, a continuous supply of gasoline or other energy to keep it going. Without that, we may admire it but we cannot use it. In order to run, even a finely-tuned Rolls Royce must have a source of power. And that is the way it is with us. Earlier I told you that you must trust Jesus Christ to have your sin forgiven. I want to repeat that; it is absolutely basic. Then I said that you must turn to Christ as Lord, to set your principles right and your actions; yes, even your opinions. That too is fundamental. But suppose He forgives your sin and begins to assert His lordship, what then? Why then you will need some sustaining power, something to keep you going, some force to keep up your faith when it begins to sink. And for that, also, you must look to Jesus Christ. It begins to look as if you must trust the Lord Jesus for everything. And that is it
- that is the whole point of Christianity!
A few minutes ago I read of a man who was said to have had "occasional fits of devout feeling". What a descriptive phrase! How like most of us that is, apart from God's grace But when Jesus Christ takes hold of us, everything changes. He has promised to sustain His people, and He calls on us to trust Him to do so. Let us try to see what that means.
Here are words Jesus said to His friends the night before He was killed:
These words introduce us to a new power, the One called in Scripture "the Holy Spirit". Jesus spoke of the Spirit to offset the fears of His followers when they grasped the fact that He was going to leave them. They thought that if He were to go away all their hopes would be crushed. "Not so!" said Jesus. 'Not at all!' Later that evening the Lord Jesus added,
The coming of the Spirit was of first importance to the disciples, although just then they could not have told you why.
The reason was this. To this point in their Christian lives the disciples had depended upon the Lord Jesus to empower them. Jesus encouraged them and instructed them and counseled them and rebuked them when they needed it. They drew upon His wisdom and guidance to keep them going. His presence and ministry to them was the fuel for their own efforts. They could not imagine life without Him. It was unthinkable.
Now here is what is important. These disciples were right in thinking they could not live without the Lord Jesus. This was not a case of mere sentimentality. It struck far deeper than that. Their understanding was sound. They must have the Lord Jesus or die spiritually. It was as simple as that! Yet there He was, telling them to bid Him goodbye. Or so it seemed.
But the all-important fact was this: the Spirit, who was to come, was God also. Just as Jesus Christ is God, so the Holy Spirit is God. Yet while the friends of Jesus could no longer have His physical presence, they still needed His wisdom and guidance. They wanted the refreshment that His counsel had brought them. And these things the Spirit of God would give. The Spirit would take the place of Jesus as the helper of His friends. He would be "another Jesus"! He would not be with them visibly as Jesus had been, but He would live within them, "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16-17).
Now you must not think of this simply as history. It is history, of course. Jesus' first-century followers found that the Spirit came to them and supplied the place that the Lord Jesus had held among them. All of that is true. But what interests us is this: it happens today. In every age since the Lord Jesus returned to His Father in heaven, He has given His Spirit to His people. The gift of the Spirit sustains us. And, if you come to Christ, He will sustain you as well.
The Bible gives us two answers when we ask the question, "What is it that the Spirit does for believers?' We might call these "an outside answer" and "an inside answer". By "an outside answer" I mean that the Spirit has done something outside of us to help us greatly. I am thinking of His work in producing the Scriptures. Of course, that was a once-for-all work. I want to take it up later. Just now, however, it is the "inside answer" on which I want to focus. A major part of the Spirit's work is within the believer. There He plants an inclination to obey and follow the teaching of the Scriptures that He has pro-duced. This "inside" work necessarily goes on through all the Christian's life. It is this that sustains him.
In the last chapter I told you that Jesus will assert His lordship over your life if you become a Christian. That is certainly true; He does it with all who follow Him. I do not know what kind of vision that fact raised in your mind. perhaps none at all. But it is just possible that I led you to think of the Lord Jesus as working against your own inclinations and crushing you into submission. That is not the case. The truth is far different.
The Lord Jesus asserts His lordship by sending His Spirit. It is the Spirit's work to give us a love for the ways of Christ. It is not a question of continually beating back the Christian's desires. There is no forcing the believer to be what he should be. That is not how God works. For one thing, there would be no end to that task. If we were not changed inwardly we would need to be pushed along throughout eternity. But that is not the picture the Bible gives us. Not at all!
The Spirit forms our attitudes; that is the main thing. It is not that actions are unimportant. We dare not ignore them. But attitudes lie behind sincere actions, so that is where the Spirit goes to work. Paul shows us the result in his letter to the Galatians:
You do not get such "fruit" by applying physical force. Love, joy, peace and the rest lie at the heart of what a man is. You must change the person to grow this fruit, and in this work the Spirit is continually engaged. We are commanded to have these fruits, these attitudes, in the Scriptures. And, as I have said, these same Scriptures were themselves produced by the Spirit. But He does not simply leave us with His commands. If we are Christians the Spirit gives us the desire to obey Him. In that way He makes these attitudes our own. His word outside us and His work within us go hand in hand. And, remem. ber, this work of the Spirit is Jesus Christ's gift to us. It is His way of sustaining us and supporting us as we follow Him.
Before I close this chapter let me try to bring its point home to you once more. I have in mind some words of Jesus that have never been popular. But we must hear them. They are for our good.
These are sobering words. Let us see if we can understand them.
Jesus' subject is the high cost of discipleship. In words I have put in italics the Lord speaks plainly: to follow Him will cost us everything. He could not have made a greater demand. No wonder these words are not popular! How could they be?
But suppose you mean to take these words seriously. What then? These stories of Jesus speak not only of high cost but of resources. The builder has money. The king has soldiers. But what resources has the man who wants to be a Christian? Scripture's answer is this: he has none!
And that brings me to my point. Suppose you come to Christ with the intention of following Him, of forsaking all for His sake. No one could fault you for that. That is the only attitude to take when you turn to Jesus. But that raises some questions. What hope do you have for the future? How will you feel about serving Christ a week from now? A month from now? Five years from now? What will happen then?
There is a pitfall here. The danger is that you will call in your self-confidence to answer these questions. In the heat of the moment you may feel that all will go smoothly because of the strength of your present Convictions. You - of all people - will not turn back!
But over against this kind of self-confidence you must set confidence in Christ. It is better to enter into the Christian life with fear and trembling than to suppose that the strength of today's determination will carry you through. Note this carefully: To look to yourself to sustain yourself is a kind of idolatry. It is self-worship. It is to imagine that you have resources that you do not have. Let me say it again: it would be better for you to start the Christian life with dread of failure than it would be to look to your own power to sustain you in living the Christian life.
But, thanks be to God, you need not do either of these things. In fact, you must not! The same Jesus Christ, who promises to forgive you and to be your Lord, promises to sustain you. He will not do one without the others. He will do all three if you come to Him.
I have no doubt what Christ will do if you come to Him. That is settled in my mind. But will you come? Let me press these questions upon you. Do you have sins that need forgiving, or do you not? Do you need a Lord to lead you in the service of God, or do you not? And do you require Someone to sustain you who is more than man, or do you not? On your answer to these questions hangs Your eternal destiny. May God give you grace to answer them wisely!