By Harry Ironside
We need never expect the world’s approbation if we are living for God. And if we are not living for Him, and yet call ourselves Christians, we will only have the world’s contempt, because even the ungodly know what a Christian ought to be; and if they see us professing to be Christians yet not living consistently, they will only despise us and look upon us as hypocrites. On the other hand, if we are living for God, we cannot expect their approval. “The world knoweth us not.” Oh, what a luxury it is to give up even a little for Jesus when He gave up so much for us. He left Heaven’s glory for us. He gave all that He had to redeem us. And, surely, it is a little thing that we should give up the world for His sake. With all our hearts, we cry:
Take the world, but give me Jesus,
All earth’s joys are but in name,
But His love abideth ever,
Through eternal years the same.
(Frances Crosby, 1879)
I like to tell of a lady who used to live in New York, a fine, godly woman who moved in the very highest circles of the world’s society before she was saved. After her conversion, she wanted to give her life in service to God, and it occurred to her that the most neglected people in her community were the “up and outs.” We hear a lot about the “down and outs,” but the need of the “up and outs” is very seldom thought of. And this lady decided to give herself to carrying the Gospel to these folks in high society who were out of Christ. And she ventured, timidly at first, but by and by people took a great delight and interest in her efforts, and she began to hold Bible readings in the homes of her wealthy friends—those who had been her friends in her unconverted days. And these Bible readings became a fad in society. Women gave up their card parties to come to them; and they felt it was a great thing when this lady arranged to have a Bible reading in one of their drawing rooms. They would gather all their friends together to come and hear her for she had such a delightful way of presenting the Word of God. One day, she was dwelling on the truth of Christian life when a beautiful society matron, listening earnestly, spoke up and said, “I would give the world to have your Christian experience.”
And she looked at her and said, “My dear, that is exactly what it cost me, and you can have it on the same terms. I gave up the world for it, and I made a wonderful exchange—the world for Jesus.” Who would not give up the world for Him who once knows of His beauty and power? So, we are not at all concerned if the world gives us up because we give it up. “Therefore the world knoweth us not.” “Beloved, now are we the sons of God” (the children of God) right here and now.
Some people say, “Oh, I do not like these folks who are so terribly sure of things!” I was preaching in California years ago, and I am afraid I made some rather unwise remarks about that verse of the old hymn:
‘Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Do I love my Lord, or no?
Am I His, or am I not?
(John Newton, 1779)
I said some things about it, which, maybe, I should not have said. We who preach, we get unwise sometimes—at least I do. And at the close, a dear old lady came up to me, and she said, “You have spoiled my favorite hymn for me.”
“What was that?” I asked.
“That lovely old hymn,” she said, “that you made fun of. That has been my favorite hymn ever since I joined the church; and you have just spoiled it for me.”
I said, “I am sorry, if you got any comfort out of it. What was it that you liked about it?”
“Why, it was so delightfully uncertain,” she replied. “I always could sing that because I felt that it would not be in the hymn book if a Christian had not written it. And if another Christian felt like that, maybe I was a Christian after all because that is the way I have always felt.”
I replied, “Then perhaps I had better be more careful and not say anything about it in the future if it comforts any poor soul. You keep your hymn if it brings you joy.”
“No, I will never sing it again,” she said. “I have got the other one now”:
‘Tis done, the great transaction’s done,
I am my Lord’s, and He is mine,
He drew me, and I followed on,
Charmed to confess the voice divine.
(Philip Doddridge, 1755)
She had moved out of Doubting Castle into Glory Manor, and her soul was rejoicing in the Lord. It is a great thing to be able to say we know, we know we are the sons of God. We know we have passed from death unto life. We know our sins are forgiven. We know we have life eternal. Have you that assurance, dear friends? If you have not, you may have it, but you can only have it on God’s terms; and God’s terms are these: that you give up all pretension to righteousness in yourself; you take your place before Him as a repentant sinner, acknowledging that you have no goodness to plead, that you have nothing in yourself that counts at all, and then turn away altogether from self and sin, putting all your trust, and all your confidence, in the living Christ who once died for you on Calvary; and then take God at His Word. He says this, “That through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). And the apostle Paul, speaking by inspiration, says, “through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39). The law of Moses was the highest expression of human effort, but that could never justify one poor sinner. But, thank God, the Lord Jesus Christ saves eternally all who put their trust in Him, and trusting Him, we become the children of God. But that is only the beginning.
“It doth not yet appear what we shall be” (1 John 3:2). You have no idea what it is going to be like. You who are on the outside now, you are going to be on the outside forever if you are not saved. Even we Christians have no conception of what it is going to be like when this word is fulfilled: “We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (v.2).
Gipsy Rodney Smith is quite a favorite in our country, and he was preaching down in one of the southern states where there are many black people. These poor people do not have much opportunity of hearing the Gospel preached. They are not welcomed in the churches where the white folk congregate, and though they have their own churches, they get very little Bible teaching or clear Gospel messages. There is a lot of emotion, but not much understanding of the truth. My eldest son has given his whole life to instructing them. He is the Superintendent of the Bible Institute in Dallas, Texas. When Gipsy Smith was preaching, and the white people were flocking to hear him, there came to him a petition from the black ministers asking him if he would not hold one meeting for their folk. He was very glad to comply, and arrangements were made for the buildings to be reserved entirely for the blacks on one particular occasion. They came by the thousands. There must have been ten thousand black people all seated there in front of him. Gipsy could hardly hold the tears back as he looked at them, and he preached one of his best sermons and, of course, there was a good deal of punctuation in the “hallelujahs” and “amens.” At times, they almost ran away with the meeting, but Gipsy proved to be a remarkable master of assemblies.
Suddenly an aged black woman called out, “Gipsy Smith, may I ask you a question?”
He looked down at her and said, “Yes, my sister. What is it?”
“What are we going to be when we get to Heaven?” she asked. And the Gipsy stopped a moment, and everybody was breathlessly waiting for his answer.
Then he replied, “My dear sister, we are going to be just like Jesus.”
“Amen,” they shouted everywhere. They knew that all distinctions between the different races would be at an end then. We are going to be just like Him—like Him morally, like Him spiritually, like Him physically, with glorified bodies, and sinless souls, and purified spirits with an intelligence, too, like His, for then “we shall know, even as we ourselves have been known.” “We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” We shall be changed by beholding Him. Here we move on from glory to glory, but then the work of grace will be absolutely completed. In one moment, we shall be made just like Himself, when we see Him face to face.
I do not know how people can read their Bibles and look out upon the world at large without realizing that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. But you know, it is a poor thing if that Blessed Hope is just a theory, just a doctrine. People say to me when I speak on that subject, as I frequently do, “Well, I was glad to hear you. I, too, hold the doctrine of the Lord’s coming.”
I answer, “That is interesting, but may I ask you, Does it hold you? It is a great thing to hold sound doctrine, but it is a greater thing to have sound doctrine hold you. And when the truth of the Lord’s coming holds you, depend upon it, you will never be as you used to be before you knew it; you will never be again what you were, when you once learn to live as daily waiting for the return of God’s Son from Heaven.”
Have you ever noticed how the Blessed Hope is presented in the first epistle to the Thessalonians? In every one of its five wonderful chapters, we have some very definite reference to that hope. In the first chapter, it is connected with conversion. The apostle says, “Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). Two things are linked up together—serving and waiting. Do not talk about waiting for the coming of the Lord if you are not serving faithfully. There are people who talk about the coming of the Lord, and they are living carnal lives, they are living for self and for the world. No, no, you cannot really be waiting for God’s Son from Heaven if you are not seeking to live for His glory. Service is connected with the hope of His return.
My mother was left a widow when I was about two years of age, and I had a younger brother only three weeks old. Mother had a difficult time caring for two little children for a number of years. I went out to work when I was old enough to do anything. We lived in Los Angeles after we left Canada where I was born. One time during school vacation, I went to work with a cobbler named Dan Mackay, an Orkney man. He had a little shop, and it was papered most beautifully. Instead of any fancy paper, he had a lot of old-fashioned Bible almanacs pasted up, and there were big bright texts and people who came into that shop would find the Gospel message facing them. He would put a Gospel tract in every parcel that he made up; and he would speak to nearly all his customers about their souls. He was a preacher of the Word seated there at his cobbler’s bench. I went to work for him. I must have been rather a lazy boy. I had a kind of iron across my knees. He would soak a pair of soles in water, and with a flat hammer I had to hammer all the water out of those soles until they got hard and solid, and then he would nail them on the shoes. I used to get very tired hammering those soles hour after hour.
On my way home, I had to pass another shoe shop, and I could see the cobbler there cut a pair of soles, soak them in water, and put them right on the shoes without hammering them at all; and every time he drove a nail into them, the water would fly all over the place. That interested me very much. I said to him, “You know, my boss makes me hammer all the water out of the soles, but you put them right on damp and soft when you get them out of the water.”
The man gave me a very sly wink, and said, “They come back all the quicker this way, my boy!”
I thought I had learned something, so I went back to my boss, and I said, “Look here, I do not know why you make me hammer these soles. The man in the other shop does not do that, and he says they come back all the quicker, and he gets more jobs.
My boss took out his Bible and read, “Whatsoever ye do in word or in deed, do all to the glory of God.” Then he said “Harry, perhaps I have been a little thoughtless. I have forgotten that you are just a lad of twelve years of age, and it is tiresome work hammering all day. I shall do some of them myself, and I will teach you to do something else to rest you between times. But I will not allow anything to go out of my shop that is not well done. It is different with me than it is with the other man. That man is not saved. He does not know the Lord, but I do. I would love to be a preacher of the Gospel, but God has not gifted me in that way, but He has shown me how to cobble shoes, and He has put me right here to glorify Him. You know, when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again, and I stand at His Judgment Seat, I expect to find every shoe that ever went out of my shop in a big pile there; and the Lord will take them and look over them, and I expect Him to examine them very carefully, and I do not want Him to say to me, ‘I am sorry you let them go like this; I cannot give you a reward for them.’ I want Him to be able to look over all my work and to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”
Do you wonder that a man like that had power in his testimony? People often came back to him and said, “Mr. Mackay, when you fixed for me that pair of soles, I found a Gospel tract in the parcel when I got home, and I have been reading it. Could you tell me how I could be sure of salvation? And he would drop everything, and that cobbler’s shop would become a sanctuary. He would lead them to Christ, showing them the way of life from the Word. He had a real testimony for God. He was serving the living and true God and waiting for His Son from Heaven. When you speak of service, do not always think of preaching and missionary endeavor. Anything that is worth doing at all can be done for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to serve in view of His appearing.
In the third chapter of 1 Thessalonians, you will notice that Christian fellowship and holiness of life are linked with the Lord’s coming. “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13). You see, day by day, you are looking for Him to return, and you say in your heart, “Oh, I want to be found doing His bidding. I want to be found living for His glory. I do not want to come under the power of any unholy thing, any evil habit, any worldly manner of living. I want to be unblameable in holiness.” Notice “blamelessness” is not exactly the same thing as sinlessness. We may be sinning often when we are not even conscious of it. To be without blame means this—that the motive is right. Take the little children; we tell them to do certain things, and oftentimes they fail fully to understand us. But when they are ready to obey, so far as they understand, we give them credit for it; we know that they mean to do the right thing; we do not blame them, we do not find fault with them because they fail here and there.
Years ago, I had been away from home, and I came back, and I found a lot of spring flowers I had planted were just coming up. They were all coming up nicely, but on the other hand, there was a lot of grass coming up too. And I called my eldest boy and said “Look here, I am going away; you weed that little plot while I am away. Take out the grass and the weeds, but don’t take out the freesias.” He promised he would. So I went away, and when I returned he came running to me. “Come and see,” he said, “I have weeded the garden.” So I hurried off with him. I knew he had a good conscience, that he had done his best so far as he knew. So I went over to look. He said, “I have got all the weeds cleared out.”
“You surely have,” I said. “You’ve done it fine.” I saw that the freesias were not there; he had not been able to distinguish between them and the weeds, and I asked him where they were.
“I threw them all over the wall,” he said.
“That’s nice.” And I gave him a little reward. That night after he had gone to bed, I took a torch and I climbed over the wall, and I found the freesias I had planted, and I put them in the ground again, and mother got her freesias, after all. He never knew, until one day I happened to use this illustration at a meeting, and he was sitting there. He was then a man of nearly forty, and I had forgotten he was there.
He said to me afterward: “I didn’t know I did that.”
“No,” I said, “and I never meant for you to know. I forgot you were here. I was perfectly satisfied. You were blameless; you did the very best you knew.” So, as we seek to labor on, looking for the coming of the Lord, He is very gracious: and while there must be much about our work that is very imperfect, yet He says “Thou didst well that it was in thine heart.” He is so gracious to us.
Let us be very practical. Jesus is coming again. We are soon going to stand before Him. Oh, to be found without blame before Him in that Day. And if that is going to be so, we must know what it is to be wholly yielded to Him here and now.
The above is an excerpt from Ironside’s book, Changed by Beholding (Lighthouse Trails, 2018)
All of Harry Ironside’s writings are in the public domain.
*A line from the hymn “A Stranger Here” by Horatius Bonar, 1852).