Christ Known to the Soul

Luke 5:1‑11  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 5
THE first thing for a soul to know is that Christ is absolutely for it. When it learns that He is absolutely for it, then it learns to be absolutely for Him, and never till then. It is what most people are looking for at the end of their lives, on their death-beds, and so they never really are Christians in the true, full sense, till then. When a person who makes a certain amount of profession is not devoted to Christ, the cause is, they have not yet learned what it is to know Christ in such a state of exigence that none other could avail but He. Christ being absolutely for me means this, that I have learned to realize that He was the only one when the thick darkness of a dread eternity was pressing itself upon my sin-stained soul-when none else could have reached a hand which would then be of any avail but His; that He stretched out His arm and grasped me in His mighty hand, and brought me to Himself-then I am His, and His forever! But souls have not come to that; they are religious and devoted, but they have not learned that Christ is absolutely for them.
It is Peter, the-apostle of the circumcision, whose conversion is related here, and who, we find, was so absolutely a debtor to grace. May we learn what grace does. What is the use of looking at a thing, if I do not see what it does for me?
Now, I ask, what has grace done? You may say, it has relieved my conscience of a burden. That is, surely, a part of what it has done, but is only a part of the whole. Grace not only relieves me of a burden, but it links me with the Son of God. What love does for me is this-(benevolence does a favor for a person who needs it, and has done with them when the favor is performed); love does a favor, and is more interested in the person than ever! The very time that love enjoys itself most, is when it has done all it can do for its object. Love enjoys itself most when the object wants nothing at all. It only uses need as an opportunity to express itself. A mother is devoted to her sick child, but surely that mother will not enjoy her child less when he is well, and does not need so much. I want to show souls what the grace of God effects for them; not only does it remove an intolerable burden, but it bestows upon you the life of the One who has relieved you of that intolerable burden. When you know this, and that the Lord is absolutely for you, you then learn to be absolutely for Him, in this evil world.
Now see what the Lord does here. He sees two ships by the lake, He enters into one of them, and tells Peter to thrust out from the laud, and then sat down and taught the people out of the ship. Peter was a well-disposed man, and did much more for the Lord than many of whom there is good hope at the present moment. I think Peter did a good deal -very few would give both their time and their means to Christ. That was really what Peter did (a fisherman's boat Was surely his time and his money); if you did not get the rest of the chapter you would say Peter was a devoted saint. Doubtless, he took a certain interest in Christ, but what I have plainly before me is, that persons may do all this, and yet never have learned that Christ is absolutely for them.—Peter had still to find that there was one to stand between him and the living God who could first, having awakened the fear in his heart, take the fear out of that heart forever! God grant it to be the history of every one of my readers. May every one of them learn to say, "He has taken the fear out of my heart, I know He is absolutely for me, and I am absolutely for Him." Grace takes all the impediments out of the way and brings you into everlasting union with Christ; and the effect of it all is, as we shall presently see, to lead the soul to forsake all and follow Him.
Now, if you had been standing by that lake, and had seen Peter giving up his ship, which was the only means of his support, in pious obedience to the Lord's wishes, you would have said, "Well, that's a true man; he has a heart for Christ." It was as much for Peter to give his time and his ship as for the greatest man in the land to give his money. But what the Lord wants is to brine.° his soul into the consciousness of its own state before God-to bring it into contact with God Himself, for it will never otherwise understand what God has effected for it.
The Lord is about to teach Peter two things. First-The insufficiency of all temporal blessing; and, secondly-What he, as the one sent from God can be to man, in the hour of the sinner's greatest exigence-in that soul-searching moment when the soul first finds itself in the presence of the living!
Christ brings him into the presence of God, by manifesting the power of God. While, on the other hand, He had given him the temporal things he desired-he had his ship full of fish-what can all this avail for a sinner before God'! What could fish do for him there? What could temporal things do for a soul when it has to look into that interminable night of eternity, and face the living God? Souls have to learn what Christ is to them, when no hand but His, no power but His own, can succor them-when they have no hope from any other quarter whatever. A death-bed brings this truth out beautifully. On a death-bed a saint finds that everything is gone. The ship is gone!-fish gone, as it were, and what remains? Nothing but Christ! Oh! what delight if a soul could say, everything is gone but Christ. How happy every one of my readers would be, if each could say, " All is gone but Christ!" But, as in the picture before us, you may have got your ship as full of fish as you can; what will you do if your ship sinks? What is the state of a person when brought to this? What do we find out now? That while a person can go on in service for Christ, religious, devoted—giving both time and means to the Lord, all the time the soul has never yet learned what it is to face the interminable future-to face God, and know the power of Christ to take away fear from the heart. What then has hindered the soul from learning this? The hindering cause is, that you have not got rid of everything but Christ. You may ask, do I mean you are to lose everything. I say, yes! And will any soul say, " I have lost everything, but I've ONLY got Christ? If you lose everything and get Christ, it is gain, not loss! There is not one soul who will go to glory but must go through it. God gave His Son that He might bring you to Himself! The apostle Paul says, as it were-" I have lost all, and I'm glad of it. I count them but dung!" You perhaps think if you go to these lengths you don't know what you will come to. I know where you will come to when everything is gone. Even to have nothing but Christ! Do you call that an unhappy position? It is what every soul must come to. He is calling upon us to accept nothing short of it. The Spirit is setting' it forth, but. people are limiting it to suit themselves.
Many make a fair profession, and give confidence that they are on the Lord's side, who have not learned Christ in His value. What joy to His heart when a soul finds out His value. There was one spot on earth where His worth was known; one spot to which He could retreat. That spot was Bethany. What joy to Him to feel that there was one little family at Bethany who knew His worth. You do not find them coming to the cross or to the grave. Does your heart thus long to know the worth of Christ?
Take the case of Jonah as an example of how God teaches the soul that He is for it. He was a prophet of God; true, but willful; but God sees the fact that Jonah had never yet thoroughly learned what it was to have God for him. There is no way to bring about devotedness but by learning how fully God is for you. When we see a man giving his whole life to Christ, it is not that he is a better man, but it is because he has found out more than others of the worth of Christ! Jonah is cast into the depths. What a mercy of God to put him there, to teach him the worth of His salvation. Who could succor him now? No one but God! Do you think you know the depths to which you have gone down? Has it stung you to the heart that the flesh you bear about in you is what the Son of God agonized for and died to put away? I know for myself nothing that gives me greater pain. Nothing is to me more dreadful than to be conscious that I carry about in me a thing for which the Son of God died. That I have that evil nature about me which the cross of the Son of God could only deliver me from. God lets Jonah go down to the depths of the sea, and he there says, "I will look again toward thy holy temple." Who but God can be for Jonah now? And so he learns it. Some of us have to find this out still. Oh! blessed moment when his soul discovers that it is God's own Son who has liberated him from himself. What does Peter discover? " I am a sinful man, O Lord." "Depart from me, I am not fit for your presence." Peter had not yet learned what it was to be in the presence of God, and to have a Savior in that presence; but it is the same Savior who has awakened him by the manifestation of His power, who says, " Fear not!"
Dear friends, are we speaking of these things as a mere form? Is there reality in the things of God? Is it a fact that a soul must be brought to find this out? The truth is, not that death has been merely stayed off, that I may go on in the scene. I am delivered out of it altogether. I have got to know that Jesus is "the resurrection and the life;" he that believeth shall never die. Souls never get into true full obedience to Christ till they have, learned this. In reality they have only then discovered the worth of Christ! Can anything arouse me to more unmistakeable devotedness than to find I have nothing but Christ, and that HE IS EVERYTHING! If everything were lost but Himself it would be an easy thing to follow Him; but if a man gives up everything for Christ you hear it said, "What an eccentric man that is!"
Many a one who has a great respect for Christ, and interest and feeling about him, has trot yet learned he has been raised out of the darkness of sin and all about him IN the life of the Son of God! The necessary consequence of knowing it would be, that having' found Him entirely for you, you would find your easy action would be to be entirely for Him. Like Peter, and those with him, who when they had brought their ships to land forsook all and followed Him.
Then, you ask, are we to give up everything to follow Christ? Yes; everything! But you may tell me there are some things you would not have to lose. Well, if you can follow Him with them it is all right. But, unless "a man forsake all that he hath, he_ cannot be my disciple." Then, you say, what a strange world we should have! We should not have the world at all, we should have Christ and heaven!
And now, in conclusion, I want to know what souls are going to do. Are you Waiting for your deathbeds, till God brings you into some such strait that you must learn it? Would you like the glory of God to shake you from everything of earth to bring you to heaven? Where, then, is your love to that blessed One now in heaven? Where is your devotedness? 'Where is the chivalry of the heart? Have you not yet got such a sense of the loathsomeness of yourselves, and the wonderful work of Christ for you, that you would think nothing too great a sacrifice for Him? If you have learned to know what Christ is for you, you could not but follow Him, and find your only joy in giving up all for Him. God never asks people to give up for Him; but do I not see every day I live, proofs of love giving up for others? Children giving up for parents, parents for children, wives for husbands, husbands for wives-and does love think of the sacrifice it makes? If it thinks of it, it is not worth having. I do not believe Peter, and James, and John, thought of what they were doing when they left all and followed Him; they were thinking only of Christ! Do you think-if I have learned that Christ has come to deliver me, when there was not one who had a pitying eye for me, whose help could avail but His own blessed self, and He has delivered me-that I could be for any one or anything but Himself? Am I going to cling to the paltry things of earth? No; Christ becomes the engrossing object of the heart, and the effect of the grace is, "They brought their ships to laud, forsook all and followed Him."
I press it-if you know He is for you, you must be for Him. "A friend in need, is a friend indeed." I have to learn that in myself I am a poor, wretched loathsome shiner; so much so, that no one would put out a finger to help me, or could, but He, and He alone. He has done so, and how then could I be for anyone or anything but Him, having learned that He is absolutely for rue? "We love Him because He first loved us." We read, "Her sins which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." This is true devotedness to Christ.