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130. Sonship Questioned
If thou be the Son of God. Matthew 4:3
There is no sin in being tempted; for the perfect Jesus "was in all points tempted like as we are" (Heb. 4:15).
Temptation does not necessitate sinning; for of Jesus, when tempted, we read, "yet without sin."
Not even the worst forms of it involve sin: for Jesus endured without sin the subtlest of temptations, from the evil one himself.
It may be needful for us to be tempted
Solitude will not prevent temptation.
- For test. Sincerity, faith, love, patience, are thus put to proof.
- For growth. Temptation develops and increases our graces.
- For usefulness. We become able to comfort and warn others.
- For victory. How glorious to overcome the arch-enemy!
- For God's glory. He vanquishes Satan by feeble men.
Satan knows how to write prefaces: our text is one.
- It may even aid it. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness.
- Nor will fasting and prayer always keep off the tempter; for these had been fully used by our Lord.
I. THE TEMPTER ASSAILS WITH AN "IF"
1. Not with point-blank denial. That would be too startling. Doubt serves the Satanic purpose better than heresy.
- He began the whole series of his temptations by a doubt cast upon our Lord's Sonship, and a crafty quotation from Scripture.
- He caught up the echo of the Father's word at our Lord's baptism and began tempting where heavenly witness ended.
- He knew how to discharge a double-shotted temptation, and at once to suggest doubt and rebellion; this was such: "If thou be the Son of God, command," etc.
2. He grafts his "if" on a holy thing. He makes the doubt look like holy anxiety concerning divine Sonship.
3. He ifs a plain Scripture. "Thou art my Son" (Ps. 2:7).
4. He ifs a former manifestation. At his baptism God said, "This is my beloved Son. " Satan contradicts our spiritual experience.
5. He ifs a whole life. From the first Jesus had been about his Father's business; yet after thirty years his Sonship is questioned.
6. He ifs inner consciousness. Our Lord knew that he was the Father's Son; but the evil one is daring.
7. He ifs a perfect character. Well may he question us, whose faults are so many.
II. THE TEMPTER AIMS THE "IF" AT A VITAL PART.
1. At our sonship.
2. At our childlike spirit. He tempts us to cater for ourselves. "Command that these stones be made bread. "
- In our Lord's case he attacks his human and divine Sonship.
- In our case he would make us doubt our regeneration.
3. At our Father's honor. He tempts us to doubt our Father's providence and to blame him for letting us hunger.
4. At our comfort and strength as members of the heavenly family.
III. THE TEMPTER SUPPORTS THAT "IF" WITH CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. You are alone. Would a Father desert his Child?
- By robbing us of our sonship, he would leave us orphans, and consequently naked, poor, and miserable.
- Thus he would have us hindered in prayer. How could we say, "Our Father" if we doubted our sonship (Matt. 6:9)?
- Thus he would destroy patience. How can we say, "Father, thy will be done," if we are not his sons (Luke 22:4)?
- Thus he would lay us open to the next shot, whatever that might be. Doubt of sonship leaves us naked to the enemy.
2. You are in a desert. Is this the place for God's Heir?
3. You are with the wild beasts. Wretched company for a Son of God!
4. You are hungry. How can a loving Father let his perfect Son hunger?
Put all these together, and the tempter's question comes home with awful force to one who is hungry, and alone.
When we see others thus tried, do we think them brethren? Do we not question their sonship, as Job's friends questioned him? What wonder if we question ourselves!
IV. WHEN OVERCOME, THE TEMPTER'S "IF" IS HELPFUL.
1. As coming from Satan, it is a certificate of our true descent.
2. As overcome, it may be a quietus to the enemy for years.
- He only questions truth: therefore we are true sons.
- He only leads sons to doubt their sonship; therefore we are sons.
- It takes the sting out of manis questionings and suspicions; for if we have answered the devil himself we do not fear men.
- It puts a sweetness into all future enjoyment of OUR FATHER.
3. As past, it is usually the prelude to angels coming and ministering to us, as in our Lord's case. No calm is so deep as that which follows a great storm (Mark 4:39).
Friend, are you in such relation to God that it would be worth Satan's while to raise this question with you?
Those who are not heirs of God are heirs of wrath.
What force there is often in a single monosyllable! What force, for instance, in the monosyllable "If," with which this artful address begins! It was employed by Satan, for the purpose of insinuating into the Savior's mind a doubt of his being in reality the special object of his Father's care, and it was pronounced by him, as we may well suppose, with a cunning and malignant emphasis. How different is the use which Jesus makes of this word "if" in those lessons of Divine instruction and heavenly consolation, which he so frequently delivered to his disciples when he was on earth! He always employed it to inspire confidence; never to excite distrust. Take a single instance of this: "If God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" What a contrast between this divine remonstrance and the malicious insinuation of the great enemy of God and man! Daniel Bagot
God had but one Son without corruption, but he had none without temptation. Such is Satan's enmity to the Father, that the nearer and dearer any child is to him, the more will Satan trouble him, and vex him with temptations. None so well-beloved as Christ; none so much tempted as he. Thomas Brooks
Satan did not come to Christ thus, "Thou art not the Son of God"; or "That voice which gave thee that testimony was a lie or a delusion. " No, he proceeds by questioning, which might seem to grant that he was the Son of God, yet withal might possibly beget a doubt in his mind. Richard Gilpin
Oh, this word "if"! Oh, that I could tear it out of my heart! O thou poison of all my pleasures! Thou cold icy hand, that touches me so often, and freezes me with the touch! "If! If!" Robert Robinson
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
131. The Making of Men-catchers
And he saith unto them, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Matthew 4:19
CONVERSION is most fully displayed when it leads converts to seek the conversion of others: we most truly follow Christ when we become fishers of men.
The great question is not so much what we are naturally, as what Jesus makes us by his grace: whoever we may be of ourselves, we can, by following Jesus, be made useful in his kingdom.
Our desire should be to be men-catchers; and the way to attain to that sacred art is to be ourselves thoroughly captured by the great Head of the College of Fishermen. When Jesus draws us we shall draw men.
I. SOMETHING TO BE DONE BY US. "Follow me."
1. We must be separated to him, that we may pursue his object.
2. We must abide with him, that we may catch his spirit.
- We cannot follow him unless we leave others (Matt. 6:4).
- We must belong to him, that his design may be our design.
The closer our communion with Christ, the greater our power with souls. Near following means full fellowship.
3. We must obey him, that we may learn his method.
4. We must believe him, that we may believe true doctrine.
- Teach what he taught (Matt. 28:20).
- Teach as he taught (Matt. 11:29; 1 Thess. 2:7).
- Teach such as he taught, namely, the poor, the base, children, etc.
5. We must copy his life, that we may win his blessing from God; for God blesses those who are like his Son.
II. SOMETHING TO BE DONE BY HIM. "I will make you."
Our following Jesus secures our education for soul-winning.
1. By our following Jesus he works conviction and conversion in men; he uses our example as a means to this end.
2. By our discipleship the Lord makes us fit to be used.
- Christ's own teaching catches men; let us repeat it.
- Faith in Jesus on our part is a great force to beget faith.
- True soul-winners are not self-made, but Christ-made.
- The making of men-catchers is a high form of creation.
3. By our personal experience in following Jesus he instructs us till we become proficient in the holy art of soul-winning.
4. By inward monitions he guides us what, when, and where to speak.
5. By his Spirit he qualifies us to reach men.
- These must be followed up carefully if we would win men.
6. By his secret working on men's hearts he speeds us in our work.
- The Spirit comes to us by our keeping close to Christ.
III. A FIGURE INSTRUCTING US. "Fishers of men. " The man who saves souls is like a fisher upon the sea.
1. A fisher is dependent and trustful.
- He makes us true fishers by inclining men to enter the gospel net.
2. He is diligent and persevering.
3. He is intelligent and watchful.
4. He is laborious and self-denying.
5. He is daring, and is not afraid to venture upon a dangerous sea.
6. He is successful. He is no fisher who never catches anything.
See the ordination of successful ministers. They are made, not born: made by God, and not by mere human training.
See how we can partake in the Lord's work, and be specimens of his workmanship: "Follow me, and I will make you. "
I love your meetings for prayer, you cannot have too many of them: but we must work while we pray, and pray while we work. I would rather see a man, who has been saved from the gulf below, casting life-lines to others struggling in the maelstrom of death, than on his knees on that rock thanking God for his own deliverance; because I believe God will accept action for others as the highest possible expression of gratitude that a saved soul can offer. Thomas Guthrie
Ministers are fishers. A busy profession, a toilsome calling, no idle man's occupation, as the vulgar conceive it, nor needless trade, taken up at last to pick a living out of. Let God's fishermen busy themselves as they must, sometimes in preparing, sometimes in mending, sometimes in casting abroad, sometimes in drawing in the net, that they may "separate the precious from the vile," etc. (Jer. 15:19; Matt. 13:48); and no man shall have just cause to twit them with idleness, or to say they have an easy life. John Trapp
The minister is a fisherman. As such he must fit himself for his employment. If some fish will bite only by day, he must fish by day. If others will bite only by moonlight, he must fish for them by moonlight. Richard Cecil
I watched an old man trout fishing the other day, pulling them out one after another briskly. "You manage it cleverly, old friend," I said. "I have passed a good many below who don't seem to be doing anything. " The old man lifted himself up, and stuck his rod in the ground. "Well, you see, Sir, there be three rules for trout-fishing, and 'tis no good trying if you don't mind them. The first is, Keep yourself out of sight; and the second is, Keep yourself farther out of sight; and the third is, Keep yourself farther still out of sight. Then you'll do it. " "Good for catching men, too," thought I. Mark Guy Pearse
Lord, speak to me, that I may speak
In living echoes of thy tone:
As thou hast sought, so let me seek
Thy erring children, lost and lone.
O lead me, Lord, that I may lead
The wandering and the wayward feet;
O feed me, Lord, that I may feed
Thy hungering ones with manna sweet.
O strengthen me, that while I stand
Firm on the Rock, and strong in thee,
I may stretch out a loving hand
To wrestlers with the troubled sea
O teach me, Lord, that I may teach
The precious things thou dost impart;
And wing my words, that they may reach
The hidden depths of many a heart.
F. R. Havergal
The best training for a soul-saving minister is precisely that which he would follow if his sole object were to develop the character of Christ in himself. The better the man, the more powerful will his preaching become. As he grows like Jesus, he will preach like Jesus. Given like purity of motive, tenderness of heart, and clearness of faith, and you will have like force of utterance. The direct road to success in saving souls is to become like the Savior. The imitation of Christ is the true art of sacred rhetoric. C. H. S.
Mr. Jesse relates that certain fish give preference to bait that has been perfumed. When the prince of evil goes forth in quest of victims, there does not need much allurement added to the common temptations of life to make them effective. Fishers of men, however, do well to employ all the skill they can to suit the minds and tastes of those whom they seek to gain. G. McMichael
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
132. The Disowned
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:21-23
ONE of the best tests of everything is how it will appear in the moment of death, in the morning of resurrection, and at the day of judgment. Our Lord gives us a picture of persons as they will appear "in that day."
Riches, honors, pleasures, successes, self-congratulations, etc., should all be set in the light of "that day."
This test should especially be applied to all religious professions and exercises; for "that day" will try these things as with fire.
The persons here depicted in judgment-light were not gross and open sinners; but externally they were excellent.
I. THEY WENT A LONG WAY IN RELIGION.
1. They made an open profession. They said, "Lord, Lord."
2. They undertook Christian service, and that of a high class: they habitually prophesied and worked miracles.
3. They had obtained remarkable success.
4. They were noted for their practical energy.
- Devils had owned their power.
5. They were diligently orthodox.
- They had done many wonders: they were active in many ways.
- They had done wonders. Astonished everybody.
II. THEY KEPT IT UP A LONG WHILE.
1. They were not silenced by men.
- They did everything in the name of Christ. The words "Thy name" are mentioned three times.
2. They were not openly disowned by the Lord himself during life.
3. They were not made a laughing-stock by being left to use the holy name without result (Acts 19:13-17). Devils were cast out.
4. They expected to enter the Kingdom, and they clung to that false hope to the last. They dared to say, "Lord, Lord," to Christ himself, at the last.
III. THEY WERE FATALLY MISTAKEN.
1. Their tongue was belied by their hand They said, "Lord, Lord," but did not do the will of the Father.
- No one discovered their falsehood, or detected their inconsistency.
2. They used the name which is named by disciples, but did not possess the nature of obedient servants (Luke 6:46).
3. They prophesied, but did not pray.
4. They cast out devils, but the devil was not cast out of them.
5. They attended to marvels, but not to essentials.
6. They wrought wonders, but were also workers of iniquity.
IV. THEY FOUND IT OUT IN A TERRIBLE WAY.
They had the information from the mouth of him whom they called Lord.
Here let us carefully notice:
1. The solemnity of what he said. "I never knew you. " He had been omitted from their religion. What an oversight!
Brethren, the Lord cannot say to some of us that he does not know us, for he has often heard our voices, and answered our requests.
He has known us
2. The terror of what it implied: they must depart from all hope, and continue for ever to depart.
3. The awful truth of what he said. They were utter strangers to his heart. He had not chosen them, nor communed with them, nor approved them, nor cared for them.
4. The solemn fixedness of what he said. His sentence would never be recalled, altered, or ended. It stood, "depart from me."
In these and many other ways he knows us.
- In repentance, seeking mercy, and receiving it.
- In gratitude, blessing his gracious name.
- In adversity, looking for his aid, and enjoying it.
- In reproach, owning his cause under ridicule.
- In difficulty, seeking help and safety under his wing.
- In love, enjoying happy fellowship with him.
Professors, does Jesus know you? The church knows you, the school knows you, the world knows you; does Jesus know you?
Come unto him, ye strangers, and find eternal life in him
In many simple works God is more seen than in wonderful works. The Pharisee at heaven's gate says, "Lord, I have done many wonderful works in thy name"; but, alas, has he ever made the Lord's name wonderful? T. T. Lynch
Pollok describes the hypocritical professor as
The man that stole the livery of heaven
To serve the devil in.
I knew you well enough for "black sheep," or, rather, for reprobate goats: I knew you for hirelings and hypocrites, but I never knew you with a special knowledge of love, delight, and complacency. I never acknowledged, approved, and accepted of your persons and performances (Ps. 1:6; Rom. 11:2). John Trapp
Not "I once knew you, but cannot own you now;" but "I never knew you; as real penitents, suppliants for pardon, humble believers, true followers." E. R. Conder
Note our Lord's open confession before men and angels, and specially to the men themselves: "I never knew you." I knew about you; I knew that you professed great things; but you had no acquaintance with me; and whatever you knew about me, you did not know me. I was not of your company, and did not know you. Had he once known them, he would not have forgotten them.
Those who accept his invitation, "Come unto me," shall never hear him say, "Depart from me." Workers of iniquity may now come to the Savior for mercy; but if they set up a hope of their own, and ignore the Savior, he will bid them depart to endure the rigors of his justice. Is it not striking that preachers, casters-out of devils, and doers of wonders, may yet be workers of iniquity? They may work miracles in Christ's name, and yet have neither part nor lot in him. C. H. S.
"Depart from me,"a fearful sentence, a terrible separation. "From me," said Christ, that made myself man for your sakes, that offered my blood for your redemption. "From me," that invited you to mercy, and you would not accept it. "From me," that purchased a kingdom of glory for such as believed on me, and have resolved to honor their heads with crowns of eternal joy. "Depart from me:" from my friendship, my fellowship, my paradise, my presence, my heaven. Thomas Adams
Charles Hadden Spurgeon