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TEXT: II Timothy 1:13
SUBJECT: Follow the Lamb #4: Hold Fast
For the last few weeks, we've been making our way through Follow the Lamb, a short book by the Scottish Presbyterian minister, Horatius Bonar. The book was written, about 1840, to help new converts grow in Christ.
There's so much to know and so much to do as Christians! Where do you start? American Evangelicals usually start with praying, reading the Bible, and going to church. Bonar is for these things, of course, but he doesn't start with them.
He thinks the root of all evil is.bad doctrine. And so, if you want to live the Christian life well, you've got to know the truth and remember it! The truth he has in mind is not a secondary matter, like the mode of baptism or church government, but the one thing needful, and that is the Gospel.
God saved you by His Gospel and He will keep you saved by His Gospel! That's something we're prone to forget. We want to move on to things wider and deeper than the Gospel, but that's folly, for nothing is wider and deeper than the Gospel! Not my favorite pet doctrine and not yours either!
In the first two chapters, we were taught, first, to Be strong in the Grace that is in Christ Jesus. To be strong in grace is to remember what grace is-God's unbought favor, who it is for-sinners-and when we get it-not when we've been good, but when we've been bad. When we sin, we don't fall from grace, we fall into grace!
Then he urged us to Keep the conscience clean. We do that by faith, by remembering and believing that Christ died for us and that His blood covers our sins-not only in our sight, but in the sight of our Judge.
Who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died!
Now, in Chapter 3, Bonar offers more good advice. It's related to what he's said before, but it moves on from it to another important part of life in Christ.
The topic is: Hold fast that which you have received.
A few of words need explaining. To receive is to welcome. What we received was The Gospel. To hold it fast is to remember it, meditate on it, love it-and never outgrow it! This last thing is what Bonar is really getting at: Don't outgrow the Gospel!
At first glance, the warning seems unnecessary. What believer could outgrow the Gospel? How could he ever go on to bigger and better things that the Biggest and Best Thing of all?
The fact is, we can feel this way, and many act on their feelings. They begin with the Lord Jesus Christ and His cross, but-once they have this down pat-other things start to interest them.
Some of the things are bad: they start with the Gospel and move on to heresy.
Others are neutral: they begin with the Gospel and move on to Home Churches, styles of worship, politics, and so on.
Others are good: they receive the Gospel and move on to the Doctrines of Grace, for example. If they left it here, it would be good: but they don't. They begin to equate the Gospel and the Five Points, or they become more interested in the doctrines about salvation than they do with the doctrine of salvation, which is Christ crucified.
This problem is both common and serious. Some of us have experienced it-including me.
This chapter is mostly negative. Bonar shows us what it is to hold fast to the Gospel by recalling what it is the opposite of. Four things will loosen your grip on the Gospel and hinder-at least-your growth in Christ.
The first is changeableness. Bonar is not against learning new things and changing your mind once in a while. What he's against is never making up your mind, or keeping everything open.
Beware of changeableness; be not carried about with diverse and strange doctrines: it is a bad sign of a man when he is frequently shifting his ground and adopting new opinions. It is good to hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end. The 'Righteousness of God' was what you began with, and you found it a sufficient resting-place. It was your joy and peace, when you found your burden and grief too great. Never let go of this truth! Continue to rejoice in this blessed doctrine!
Who saved you? Jesus Christ. How did He save you? By His death. How did His death come to benefit you? By grace, through faith. What does His death do for your everyday life? It changes it from bad to good and from good to better.
These are things you may have learned the day you were converted. I knew them before I was saved. They are not up for review! No teacher should be listened to who denies them or explains them away.
Faith in Christ was enough to save you back then. It's enough to keep you saved. Don't change you mind on these things. Go deeper, maybe, understand them better, fine, but don't budge from what you've known your whole Christian life.
Learn your whole life. Change when you need to. But do it slowly and surely. And whatever you learn and however you change, never get off the Gospel, the Word that gave you life. For there's no life without it.
Beware of changeableness. If juggling a new doctrine every week makes you drop the Gospel, let the new doctrines fall where they may, and hold on to Gospel-and hold it tightly.
The second thing he's against is boredom with the Gospel.
When a man gets tired of what is old, and is always catching hold of what is new, it looks as though he has lost his love for Christ. Love of novelties has been the shipwreck of many souls. 'Some new thing' is the craving, not of the men of Athens only, but of many in the Church of God. They are restless and old truths get tame and stale.
I'm not sure any line is more damning than the last one: old truths get tame and stale. The Gospel becomes tame-dull, predictable. The Gospel becomes stale-the same old same old. Because they're tired of the Gospel, they look for something else or something more.
But the Gospel is only dull when it is forgotten. What's tame about God becoming a Man and dying in my place? What's stale about the forgiveness of sin, every day?
The man who's in love with his wife isn't looking for something new every night. He's not only satisfied with what he has, but his contentment with her is growing and he's finding new things to love about her every day!
If you want to grow in grace and walk more closely with Christ, then don't ever become bored with Him. And you won't-you can't-if you remember Who He is and what He did for you.
THE LOVE OF CONTROVERSY
A third thing that loosens your grip on the Gospel is the love of controversy.
Along with this, we often see the love of controversy, which is almost equally pernicious, even when it takes the side of truth. The man who prefers fighting about his food to eating it is likely to become too lean. Disputes, like offenses, must sometimes come, but they are difficult to handle safely. They often eat out love, even when they do not destroy faith.
Controversy is arguing about the truth. This is a necessary evil, and every Christian will have to do it from time to time. But we shouldn't love it! Quarrelling often leads to pride, to stubbornness, to contempt, to gossip, and other things that aren't fitting for saints.
I believe in the doctrine of Unconditional Election. You don't. Because it's true, I want you to believe it, too. So, I gently talk to you about it. But you disagree, making a dozen bad arguments against it. I answer each one easily, but as I go along, I get hotter and sharper in my answers. By the time I'm finished, I think I'm very smart, you're very stupid, and I can't wait to let everyone know. Oh, you did make one good point, but because I didn't have an answer for it, I refused to think about it or admit I might be wrong.
Love of controversy is a cancer on the soul. Even when you're right and your opponent is wrong! Knowledge puffs up, but charity builds up! The only thing worse than losing a debate is winning one. The only thing worse than winning a debate is winning it big.
Because winning, like wine, makes you feel good, and has a way of addicting you.
When you have to debate other Christians, do it, but don't fall in love with it. Because if you do, you'll fall out of love with them and with the One who died for them.
If you want to hold on to the Gospel, you have to watch out for one more thing--
Beware of excitement. The mind of Christ is calm, not restless and ruffled; the work of the Spirit is to calm, not to excite; and the tendency of the Gospel is to comfort, not to agitate. God is not in the fire, the earthquake, and the hurricane, but in the still small voice. What is merely emotional, not only dies down, but often leave insensibility, if not a seared conscience behind it.
Excitement is not bad in itself, but if you're too excited about too many things, something is going to happen: you're going to crash.
This is not to favor lukewarmness, of course. But if you want your excitement to glorify God and to inspire you, become excited about one thing only: the Gospel. But don't depend on excitement: the Gospel is true and glorious, even if you're not excited about it. Thus you ought to believe it, meditate on it, and love by it, whether you feel anything or not. Piety is not in feelings, but in faith and obedience.
CLOSE AND CHALLENGE
If you want to grow in grace, you've got to hold on to what first saved you: the Gospel-He was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification. Stick with the Gospel, make sure that-whatever else interests you-you're most interested in the Gospel.
This means: beware of changing your mind and doctrine every five minutes. Beware of growing bored with the old, old story. Beware of loving arguments-especially if you mostly win them. Beware of making an idol of excitement.
I feel sorry for people of other religions. Not only are their beliefs false, but they're shallow and dull. But the doctrines of the cross are true-and not only true-but deep and exhilarating. For anyone who know them and stays clear of lesser things.
Be clear on what the Gospel is. Call it to mind every day. Share it with others. And pray the Lord will keep it where it belongs: as a sign upon your hands and as frontlets between your eyes!
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