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TEXT: Revelation 14:14
SUBJECT: Follow the Lamb #1
In the middle of the Nineteenth Century there was a Revival in Scotland led by an old man, Thomas Chalmers, and a group of young men, the best known of whom is Robert Murray M'Cheyne. Among the younger men were the brothers, Andrew and Horatius Bonar. The brothers were men of real learning and piety, with a passion for evangelism and follow-up. They did not believe preaching the Gospel was enough; those who believed had to be trained to serve the Lord.
This is never easy, of course, but it was doubly hard for the pastors of Scotland of that time because the number of conversions was staggering! We all want the Lord to save thousands in a day, but if He did, what would we do with them all? How can a handful of Christians teach, counsel, rebuke, and comfort a flood of new converts?
One way to do it is with good books. And that's what one of the young preachers did back then: he wrote a good book telling young believers how to grow in Christ.
The book takes its title from the verse I read a couple of minutes ago. It's called Follow the Lamb, by Horatius Bonar, and first published in the 1840's or thereabouts. The small book is still in print; the edition I have has been put into Modern English, is easy to read and highly recommended.
The book is 63 pages long, divided into fifteen chapters, with an introduction. If my math is right, that comes out to four pages per chapter-and every one of them is 24 karat. The book is written on maybe a fourth-grade level, but there's nothing childish about it! It is clear and speaks straight to the heart.
And so, for the next few weeks, the Lord willing, we'll study Follow the Lamb. And may the Holy Spirit enable us to do it better.
Bonar begins by naming his audience. He is not writing for everyone in the world; most of what he says does not apply to all people, but only to some. Who are they? They are Christians!
It is for you who are called by the name of Christ that these pages are written.
What is God's will for the unsaved? If you listen to Christian Radio of the conservative or patriotic type, you might think the Lord's will for the lost is that they become better lost people. God wants unsaved husbands to spend more time with their kids or unsaved women to not abort their babies or unsaved lawmakers to pass moral laws or unsaved movie makers to make more wholesome movies.
I am for all of the above. But this is not the message of the Bible! The New Testament, in particular, nowhere commands sinners to become moral or wholesome or loving or family-oriented sinners. No! What it does is command sinners to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ.
The advice that follows, therefore, is not meant to either (1) save sinners, or to (2) slow down the rotting of society. Bonar's design is to urge believers to glorify the Lord by keeping themselves pure and enthusiastic in their devotion and obedience.
Having named his readers, he goes on to remind us of our privilege.
It is a great thing to be a Christian. The very name is a noble one beyond all the noble names of earth. The thing itself is inconceivably blessed and glorious. To say, 'I am a Christian' is to say, 'I belong to God's nobility; I am of the peerage of heaven'.
Some people are proud of their families, of who they are, of what they've done, of their past glory. The Phillips' didn't just step off the boat, we've been here for 350 years. My ancestors weren't farm hands or goatheards, they were senators, ambassadors, bankers, artists, professors, maybe even kings and queens (if you go back far enough). Many people feel this way (though most of them won't admit it).
But what is the Phillips family-or names a lot more prestigious than ours-compared to God's family! Every Christian is a prince or a princess, because every believer's Father is God! I don't care if you can trace your name back to Chalemagne or Alexander the Great, that's nothing compared to what we are as children of God and the younger brothers and sisters of Christ.
Bonar is right: It is a great thing to be a Christian. It is big enough to satisfy an ego the size of the Great Outdoors. What an immense honor it is-and undeserved-to be in God's Family!
Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we-we!-should be called the sons of God!
With the great privilege goes an obligation. Some have said the obligation matches the honor. It doesn't! The Lord gives us far, far more than He demands of us. The honor is much greater than the responsibility. But, Bonar says,
Much is expected of you. Do not disgrace the old family name. Do nothing unworthy of Him who represents you in heaven and whom you represent on earth. He is faithful to you, be faithful to Him. Let men know what a Lord and Master you serve. Be His witnesses; be His mirrors; be His living Epistles. Let Him speak through you to the world. Let your life tell your fellow man what He is and what He is to you. He has honored you by giving you His name, do justice to His love and magnify His greatness.
God's mercy is not earned by good works, but it calls for good works. My wife doesn't love me because I do things for her, but because she loves me, I ought to do good things for her. The same is true of God's love for us. Many verses say so:
In this way, we know the love of God, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice.
You are children of light, walk as children of light.
God did not love us so that we would not love Him. Christ did not die for us so that we would remain sinful. The Spirit doesn't possess us so that we would grieve Him. No, God's love is designed to make us love Him-We love Him because He first loved us. Christ died to redeem us from all iniquity. The Spirit indwells us so that we wouldn't grieve Him by our foolish and sinful ways-Grieve not the Spirit by which you are sealed to the Day of Redemption.
Being a Christian means living like a Christian. Not living like an angel or a glorified saint, but also not living like a devil or an unsaved man! This is our privilege and our responsibility.
Bonar could stop here, but he doesn't. He doesn't just say, live like a Christian and leave it there. For, that doesn't explain what a Christian lives like. What is a Christian? Someone who goes to church on Sunday? Or, someone who's nice to his neighbors? Or, maybe, a wife who obeys her husband or kids who obey their parents. These are all good things to be and do, of course, but you can be and do them all-and more-and be no Christian at all.
Bonar tells us precisely what a Christian does,
The Him is the Lord Jesus Christ. Many verses tell us to follow the Lord. If anyone wants to be My disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.Follow me, even as I follow Christ.Be followers of God as dear children.
It's funny that some believers think that one can be a Christian-and go to heaven-without following Christ. They say following doesn't justify, faith does. Well, okay, but what is faith but sticking to Christ and what is sticking to Christ if it's not following Him?
I can't remember the name, but Christians ought to be like those sucker fish that hang on to sharks or whales or other big fish. Wherever the big fish goes, the little one goes with it. Wherever the Lord goes, we go. That's our goal, at least.
Following the Lord means going in a certain direction. Bonar tells us what the direction is-in two ways:
You began by turning your back on the world. Keep on doing this. In following Him, keep looking forward-looking to Jesus.
If a man walks south, it means his back is turned to the north. In the same way, if a believer follows Christ, his back is turned to his former sins. The Lord is not leading you into lust or envy or avarice or sloth or drunkenness or pride, and that means you're getting away from these things.
And, in getting away from these things, you're not just reforming your life, but you're transforming it. You're following Christ.
Men in the Bible said they would follow Christ-but not all of them did. We say the same thing-that's what it means to profess our faith, to say we're Christians. But are we just saying it or are we doing it? Are we praising obedience or are we obeying?
Following the Lord is not always easy; in fact, it's never easy. Crosses are heavy and being nailed to them hurts! Peaceful deaths are seldom, and a quiet crucifixion? There's no such thing!
Yet following Christ-though hard-carries a great blessing. Bonar says
The cross is life, health, holiness, consolation, strength, joy; let nothing come between it and you.
He's right. Life under the cross is full of blessings (often in disguise) and the end of that life is full of blessings undisguised. When Peter boasted about-perhaps-of how much he and his friends had given up to follow Christ, the Lord set him straight. We give up nothing to follow Christ, but we get everything.
SUMMARY AND EXHORTATION
At the end of his introduction, the preacher sums up the chapter and urges us to live by it.
Remember what you are and what God expects of you. Your conversion is only a beginning, and no more. You are a disciple, but your discipleship has only commenced. Your life is a book. Your conversion is the title page. The book itself remains to be written. It is a book to be read by both enemies and friends. Be careful of every word. It is a book being read by God. It is a book written for eternity.
Many of our past pages are not pleasing to the Lord. They hurt good people and they harden bad ones. But the pages past are in the past and cannot be gotten back. But tonight's page is yet to be written. Write it in grace. The Love of God be with you!
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