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TEXT: II Timothy 2:1

SUBJECT: Follow the Lamb #2

In the middle of the Nineteenth Century, most Scotsmen were members of the Presbyterian Church, but few of them were saved. They had a smattering of Calvinist doctrine and morality, but they didn't know how to serve the Lord and they didn't want to know.

But then something happened: Revival came to Scotland in 1840, and many thousands were saved in a couple or three years. This was a great blessing, of course, but it was more than that: It was also a great challenge.

How do you disciple a hundred new converts every week? The pastors worked hard at preaching and counseling, but there were not enough hours in the day to train them all. But trained they must be-all of them must be taught how to live the Christian life.

The pastors began publishing books to help their people. Because the readers were baby Christians, and mostly uneducated, the pastors wrote books that were short and easy to understand. Maybe the best of them is Follow the Lamb, by Horatius Bonar.

The title is taken from Revelation 14:4, and pretty much explains the book. Bonar wrote it to help young believers follow Christ.

In the introduction, he reminds us that conversion is the not end of the Christian life, but its beginning. We are not saved to be saved, but to glorify God with our lives. To live as obedient servants of Christ and witnesses to God's love.

If you want to live the Christian life (and not just profess it), Horatius Bonar can help you. His book is only 63 pages long and divided into fifteen short chapters. It is easy to read and-except for the Bible-I can't think of any book that is better to bed down with than this one. Follow the Lamb.

THE TOPIC

If you were training a new convert, what would you begin with? American Evangelicals usually start with the big three: read the Bible, pray, go to church. Are these good things to do? Yes they are. They're all commanded by God and have stood the test of time. Few Christians grow in grace who are not committed to reading the Bible, praying, and going to church.

These things come up in Bonar's book, but not in Chapter One. He thinks there is something bigger than the big three! There is something more important than daily devotions and honoring the Lord's Day. His first words are,

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

By grace, I think Bonar means the doctrine of grace-not Calvinism, as such, but something more basic than that: the belief that God is gracious.to me.

This, he says, is where the Christian life begins,

It was this grace which first began with you and with which you began. It was with this that you first apprehended, or rather, were apprehended.and you know the grace of God, that the Lord is gracious, that God has had compassion on you, and to whom He has shown His forgiving love.

Your fellowship with God began with His Grace and is sustained by His grace. We are not converted by grace, but then kept through good works or sincerity. It's all of grace!

To live the Christian life, you must believe in God's grace and to hang on to the belief, especially when you are tempted to give it up.

Can a Christian wonder about God's grace, doubt it, even deny it with a loud voice? Of course he can. And not just weak believers, but even the strongest fight with unbelief-and often lose to it.

Think of David in Psalm 13: How long will you forget me, O Lord, forever? Or Asaph in Psalm 77: Has God forgotten to be gracious? Think of Job, ranting and raving at the Lord! And the disciples who cried in the storm, Master, carest Thou not that we perish?

If you move closer to our time, you'll find Martin Luther struggling with assurance and the great poet, William Cowper, losing his mind from the fear that God did not love him.

Believers can doubt God's grace in general or to them in particular. But the doubts are not good for us; they hinder our growth in grace. And more to the point-they don't follow the Lamb!

If you want to live the Christian life, start by meditating on God's grace, and believe it's for you. Especially when you sin!

EXHORTATION AND WARNING

After naming the topic, Bonar offers brief exhortations and a more detailed warning. First, the positives:

The grace of God is your strength as it is your joy; it is only by abiding in it that you can really live the life of the redeemed. Be strong, then, in this grace, draw your joy out of it.

We don't know what the angels most admire in God. I suspect it is His holiness or maybe His power. These things give them great joy. Sinners love them too, but there's something else about the Lord we love even more: His grace.

You know why, don't you? Because we need it! Unfallen angels can live without His mercy, but fallen men cannot! A businesslike relationship satisfies them, but we need more than that: we need a Father who keeps forgiving us and reminding us that He still loves us, whatever we do.

Thinking about His grace now and then just won't do! We have to live in His grace. It must color our every thought and fear and joy. Yes we sin, but where sin abounds, grace much more abounds! Of course we're scared of the future, but the future is full of grace. Sure, material things make us happy, but grace turns them into a sacrament: a visible sign of God's favor!

The Lord's grace is our strength and our joy. And unlike other strengths, it cannot fail; and unlike other joys, it never becomes stale.

The Bible compares Grace to Water. It's not only necessary and refreshing, but you need it every day! And that's the good thing about His grace: you can have it every day!

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters! If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink. And he showed me a pure river of water of live, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

If a man cannot live without water, a believer cannot live without grace! So live on it!

To the exhortations, Bonar adds a warning or two,

Beware of turning to anything else for refreshment, or comfort, or holiness. If you are at any time drawn away from it, return to it without delay; and betake yourself to it just as you did at the first. To recover lost peace, go back to where you got it at first. Do not go back to your feelings or experiences to extract from them a renewal of your lost peace. Go back to the free love of God. You found peace in it at the first, you will find peace in it to the last. It was the beginning of your confidence. Let it be both first and last.

Bonar lived long before the rise of modern medicine and Christian counseling. It never occurred to him to discipline children with pills or find blessedness in group therapy. I'm not against these things-if they are kept in their place. But no counselor and no pill will give you peace with God! They might give you a sense of peace with God or an illusion of it, but peace with God comes from heaven, not earth, from grace, not the pharmacy, from the blood of Christ, not the words of men.

But you will not find that peace unless you keep grace where the phylacteries were put-as a sign upon your hand and as frontlets between your eyes!

If you want peace, don't go to yourself-to your feelings of remorse, for example, or to the sincerity of your promises, or to your past record. All these things testify against you! Your tears have proven false! Your promises have been broken! Your record is a bad one! These things don't matter! What matters is grace-real, objective, solid, lasting grace outside of yourself and independent of your feelings!

Live on grace and on nothing else. Not on feelings, not on the Law, not on peer pressure. Live on grace, and when you're tempted to seek relief in something else, remember the something else didn't love you from before time and send God's Son to die in your place. No, it was grace that did that.

Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

ANTINOMIANISM

The cry of grace alone will always make some people nervous. If you live on grace alone, you'll become lax in your obedience. And so, we need to supplement grace with the Law and the fear of damnation. That's what they say. But they're wrong. Bonar says,

This abounding grace, rightly understood, will not make you sin; it will not relax morality. It will magnify sin and enhance its evil in your eyes.

The grace of God does not cancel the call to holiness; it enables us to answer the call. Nothing will work against holiness more than the belief that God will not forgive you! The more you believe that, the less you'll love God. And you cannot live the Christian life without loving God.

Paul says the grace of God

Teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.

It did that for Paul and the Early Church. Rightly understood, it will do it for you. This means you need to rightly understand grace.

It is not something you earn in the first place or keep by trying hard. It's a gift-God's gift-given to sinners who don't deserve it-and when we deserve it the least!

When we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.But God commended His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

No strength means we didn't earn His favor: sinners and ungodly mean we forfeited His grace. And we got it anyway!

EXCESS IMPOSSIBLE

Some things can be mediated on too much-even good things can be. A wife is God's blessing, but the man who thinks only of his wife turns her into an idol, and that's bad. The doctrine of last things is in the Bible-and meant to be studied. But the man who thinks of nothing else is almost sure to become a heretic, a nut, or both!

But no one can think too often or too deeply about the grace of God. It's milk for the baby in Christ and meat for the man in Christ. It's water to the thirsty, wine to the sorrowing, and medicine to the sick. Grace is what we live on!

So, let's live on it. And let others do the same. Amen.

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