Conversion: What Is It? Part 7

1 Thessalonians 1:9
We are now called to consider a deeply practical point in our subject. It is contained in the clause, “To serve the living and true God.” This is full of interest to every truly converted soul — every true Christian. We are called “to serve.” Our whole life, from the moment of our conversion to the close of our earthly career, should be characterized by a spirit of true, earnest, intelligent service. This is our high privilege, not to say our hallowed duty. It matters not what our sphere of action may be, what our line of life, or what our calling; when we are converted, we have just got one thing to do, namely, to serve God. If there be anything in our calling which is contrary to the revealed will of God — contrary to the direct teaching of His Word — then we must at once abandon it, cost what it may. The very first step of an obedient servant is to step out of a false position.
Suppose, for example, the proprietor of a public-house is converted to God. What is he to do? Can he go on with such a business? Can he abide in such a calling with God? Can he continue in the sale of that which entails ruin, misery, degradation, death, and perdition on thousands and hundreds of thousands? Can he possibly serve the living and true God in the bar of a public-house?
We cannot believe it. We may be deemed harsh, severe, and narrow, in writing thus. We cannot help that. We must write what we believe to be the truth.
We are persuaded that the very first act of a converted public-house keeper should be to shut up his shop, and turn his back, with stern decision, on such a godless, horrible calling. To talk of serving God in such an occupation is, in our judgment, a miserable delusion.
No doubt, the same may be said of many other callings, and the reader may feel disposed to ask, “What is a Christian to do? How can he get on?” Our answer is simply this: We are called to serve God, and everything must be tried by this standard. The Christian has to ask himself this one question — “Can I fulfill the duties of this situation to the glory of God?” If not, he must abandon it. If we cannot connect the Name of God with our calling in life, then, assuredly, if we want to walk with God, if we aim at serving Him, if it be our one desire to be found well-pleasing in His sight — then we must give up that calling, and look to Him to open some path for us in which we can walk to His praise.
This He will do, blessed be His Name. He never fails a trusting soul. All we have to do is to cleave to Him with purpose of heart, and He will make the way plain before us. It may seem difficult at first. The path may appear narrow, rough, lonely; but our simple business is to stand for God, and not to continue for one hour in connection with anything contrary to His revealed will. A tender conscience, a single eye, a devoted heart, will settle many a question, solve many a difficulty, remove many a barrier. Indeed the very instincts of the divine nature, if only they be allowed to act, will guide in many a perplexity. “The light of the body is the eye; therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light.” When the purpose of the heart is true to Christ — true to His name and cause — true to the service of God, the Holy Spirit opens up the precious treasures of divine revelation to the soul, and pours a flood of living light upon the understanding, so that we see the path of service as clear as a sunbeam before us, and we have only got to tread it with a firm step.
But we must never, for one moment, lose sight of the grand fact that we are converted to the service of God. The outcome of the life which we possess must ever take the form of service to the living and true God. In our unconverted days we worshipped idols, and served divers lusts and pleasures; now, on the contrary, we worship God in the Spirit, and we are called to serve Him with all our ransomed powers. We have turned to God, to find in Him our perfect rest and satisfaction. There is not a single thing in the entire range of a creature’s necessities, for time and eternity, that we cannot find in our own most gracious God and Father. He has treasured up in Christ, the Son of His love, all that can satisfy the desires of the new life in us. It is our privilege to have Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith, and to be so rooted and grounded in love, as to be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Thus filled, satisfied, and strengthened, we are called to dedicate ourselves, spirit, soul, and body, to the service of Christ; to be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. We should have nothing else to do in this world. Whatever cannot be done as service to Christ, ought not to be done at all. This simplifies the matter amazingly. It is our sweet privilege to do everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and to the glory of God. We sometimes hear people speak of “a secular calling,” as contrasted with what is “sacred.” We question the correctness of such a distinction. Paul made tents and planted churches, but in both he served the Lord Christ. All that a Christian does ought to be sacred, because it is done as service to God. If this were borne in mind, it would enable us to connect the very simplest duties of daily life with the Lord Himself, and to bring Him into them in such a way as to impart a holy dignity and interest to all that we have to do, from morning till night. In this way, instead of finding the duties of our calling a hindrance to our communion with God, we should actually make them an occasion of waiting on Him for wisdom and grace to discharge them aright, so that His holy Name might be glorified in the most minute details of practical life.
The fact is that the service of God is a much simpler matter than some of us imagine. It does not consist in doing some wonderful things beyond the bounds of our divinely appointed sphere of action. Take the case of a domestic servant. How can she serve the living and true God? She cannot go about visiting and talking. Her sphere of action lies in the shade and retirement of her master’s house. Were she to run about from house to house, she would be actually neglecting her proper work, her divinely appointed business. Hearken to the following sound and wholesome words:
“Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:9-109Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; 10Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. (Titus 2:9‑10)).
Here we see that the servant, by obedience, humility, and honesty can adorn the doctrine of God just as effectually, according to her measure, as an evangelist ranging the world over in the discharge of his high and holy commission.
Again, we read, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good-will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free” (Eph. 6).
How lovely is all this! What a fine field of service is opened up for us here! How beautiful this “fear and trembling!” Where do we see it now-a-days? Where is the holy subjection to authority? Where the singleness of eye? Where the willing-hearted service? Alas! we see headiness and high-mindedness, self-will, self-pleasing, and self-interest. How must all these things dishonor the Lord, and grieve His Holy Spirit! How needful that our souls should be roused to a sense of what becomes us as those who are called to serve the living and true God! Is it not a signal mercy to every true Christian to know that he can serve and glorify God in the most commonplace domestic duties? If it were not so, what would become of ninety-nine out of every hundred Christians?
We have taken up the case of an ordinary domestic servant, in order to illustrate that special line of practical truth now under our consideration. Is it not most blessed for us to know that our God graciously condescends to connect His Name and His glory with the very humblest duties that can devolve upon us in our ordinary domestic life? It is this which imparts dignity, interest, and freshness to every little act, from morning till night. “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men.” Here lies the precious secret of the whole matter. It is not working for wages, but serving the Lord Christ, and looking to Him to receive the reward of the inheritance.
Oh, that all this were more fully realized and illustrated amongst us! What moral elevation it would give to the entire Christian life! What a triumphant answer it would furnish to the infidel! What a withering rebuke to all his sneers and cavils! Better by far than ten thousand learned arguments. There is no argument so forcible as an earnest, devoted, holy, happy, self-sacrificing Christian life, and this life can be displayed by one whose sphere of action is bounded by the four walls of a kitchen.*
(* It is remarkable that, both in Eph. 6 and Col. 3, the address to servants is far more elaborate than to any of the other classes. In Titus 2 servants are specially singled out. There is no address to husbands, none to masters, none to children. We do not attempt to account for this, but we cannot help noticing it as a very interesting fact, and, most assuredly, it teaches us what a very important place is assigned in Christianity to one who, in those early days of the church’s history, occupied the place of a slave. The Holy Spirit took special pains to instruct such an one as to how he was to carry himself in his most interesting sphere of work. The poor slave might think himself shut out from the service of God. So far from this, he is sweetly taught that by simply doing his duty, as in the sight of God, he could adorn the doctrine of God his Saviour, and bring glory to the Name of Jesus. Nothing can exceed the grace that shines in this.)
And not only does the practical life of a true Christian afford the very best possible answer to the skeptic and the infidel, but it also meets, in a most satisfactory manner, the objections of those “who talk about works, and insist upon putting Christians under the law, in order to teach them how to live. “When people challenge us as to our not preaching up works, we simply ask them, “For what should we preach works?” The unconverted man cannot do any works, save “wicked works,” or “dead works.” There is not a single thought of his heart, not a single word of his lips, not a single act of his life, for which he does not righteously deserve the flames of an everlasting hell. “They that are in the flesh” — unconverted people — “cannot please God.” Of what possible use can it be to preach works to such? It can only cast dust in their eyes, blind their minds, deceive their hearts, and send them down to hell with a lie in their right hand.
There must be genuine conversion to God. This is a divine work, from first to last. And what has the converted man got to do? He certainly has not to work for life, because he has it, even life eternal, as God’s free gift, through Jesus Christ our Lord. He has not to work for salvation, because he is saved already — “saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.” What, then, is he called to do? “To serve the living and true God.” How? When? Where? In everything; at all times, and in all places. The converted man has nothing else to do but to serve God. If he does anything else, he is positively untrue, unfaithful to that blessed Lord and Master, who, before ever He called him to serve, endowed him with the life, and the grace, and the power, whereby alone the service can be rendered.
Yes, reader, the Christian is called to serve. Let us never forget this. He is privileged to “present his body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is his reasonable, his intelligent service.” This settles the whole question. It removes all difficulties; it silences all objections; it puts everything in its right place. It is not a question of what I am doing, but how I do it — not where I am, but how I conduct myself. Christianity, as displayed in the New Testament, is the outcome of the life of Christ in the believer; it is Christ reproduced in the Christian’s daily life, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Everything the Christian touches, everything he does, everything he says, his whole practical life, from Lord’s day morning till Saturday night, should bear the impress, and breathe the spirit, of that great practical clause on which we have been dwelling — “serving the living and true God.” May it be so more and more! May all the Lord’s beloved people, everywhere, be really stirred up to seek more earnest, out-and-out, whole-hearted devotedness to Christ and His precious service!