How Do You Know When You Reach The Point Of No Return?
The question under consideration is an interesting one: “How do you know when you reach the point of no return in your Christian life?
I would say, to begin with, that the personal commitment of a life to the Lord Jesus is the only basis of salvation. Salvation is not a statement of doctrine; it is a surrender to a Person. Of course, you believe right, or you cannot live right. But you can believe right and still not be saved. Personal salvation must involve commitment, and you can find no other basis of salvation in the New Testament.
“What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8). This is conversion, this is commitment and surrender, and is inevitably the first step. It is not, however, to be a kind of monument that we have left behind us, and that we look back upon after many years. It is something that is involved in everyday living and Christian experience.
When I was 19 I gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ, and then played around for nearly ten years. What a tragedy it is when a man lives like that. How unhappy and miserable he is as he tries to get the best out of both worlds!
How well do I remember the early years of our marriage! I was in business as a C.P.A. in England. We had bought our new home in the country among the hills, and we had a lovely dog that was a treasure to us both—she was a real beauty. I had to travel many miles to my place of business in London every day. At that time I was superintendent of the smallest mission hall you could ever see in a slummy area of London. That involved traveling back and forward every Sunday and Wednesday, and often on other nights, and soon there came a conviction which seemed somehow to shake both my wife and myself to the very core. We could not possibly look after the work and live in our home in the country. The two did not go together, so what should we do? Should we get someone else to take over the work, and resign? We talked and we prayed and we thought.
We were very young and very immature Christians, and in some senses worldly Christians. Yet this little mission hall was a place where sometime previously we had both met God and He had met us. He brought me back to Himself after years of wandering, and He had brought my wife to Himself, too. Both of us were in tears as we surrendered to Jesus as Lord of our hearts, and He opened up that little sphere of service to us.
Well do I remember the first time I ever tried to preach the Gospel there. John 3:16 was the only text I knew, and I dried up in ten minutes and pronounced the benediction! Perhaps people would be glad if I did that right now! It is not so easy to do that these days when there is so much on one’s heart.
But what should we do about this? We talked about it, and I would go to business in the morning, thinking about my job and my career. At that time my parents, both of whom have gone to be with the Lord now, had come to live nearby. They had given up their home in the north of England and had come to live near us. Neither of them were Christians then. What should I do? Should I give up my work at the mission? Should I please my parents by living near them? And what about the dog? That was a real issue to me. I don’t think it mattered so much to my wife because she had to look after her in the daytime, but it was an issue to me.
How well do I remember the nights in December (we had been married in June) when we knelt together in our living room and told the Lord Jesus, “You are Lord of our hearts and Lord of our lives. You have given us each other, our salvation, everything. Lord, this home is not ours, it is Yours. You must take it.”
There came a commitment then on a level we had not know before. It meant the surrender of a home which was our first home: it was precious to us. It meant the yielding of a career, because I somehow felt that God was speaking to me then about going into full-time service. There came a commitment to the Lord Jesus, and the next day an estate agent had our house up for sale, and in a few weeks we went to live near the slum mission in a very humble place.
We lived there for a while, and how happy we were as we worked in that place! Then God spoke to me about the ministry. How well do I remember traveling down to the office one day and hearing the Lord saying, “Are you prepared to leave this—your career—to preach the Word?” And I said, “Lord, I have had no training, no Bible study, no college, and I couldn’t possibly begin now. I don’t know a thing about it. I would be utterly unequipped for it.” “Are you prepared to trust Me for all that?” He replied. “Are you prepared for commitment on this level?”
A short while after that I left business, and with no training and no opportunity to get any at all, went into a Christian youth movement to preach the Gospel. I started out with about four or five sermons at most, so the first ten-day mission was a real test! What were we to do in a situation like that? There was nothing to do but to trust the Lord.
I remember going to one place, and my wife came with me. Oh, what days those were! We were living then on about one third of the income we had when we were in business, and everything we got depended upon raising thank-offerings and love-offerings. On this occasion we were in a church in a town in the south of England where they did not really want us—we had to ask if they would have us. We went there and began to preach the Word night by night. The congregation on the first night—“the great opening rally,” as it was announced—I think was forty-two people and at the close of the ten days at the “great thanksgiving evening” there were seventeen! It had reduced somewhat. When they took the love-offering for those ten days’ ministry (there was my wife, myself and a soloist) it was in English money 13s. 6d., which was then just less than $4! As we went through those days, we proved God in a way that I would not have missed for anything in the world.
That was twenty-five years ago. What is the value of all that now? I only tell you that because all through that time the Lord has been so faithful. But have we ever got to the place of no return? I haven’t. I am not there now. I’m not sure we ever get there! Because the commitment of twenty-five years ago is utterly valueless unless today there is a commitment on a deeper level. You will find in your Christian life the Lord expects you to obey Him up to the limit of the light that He gives you, up to the limit of His commands. He doesn’t discuss terms with you. He doesn’t ask you to debate or to think about it. He demands instant obedience up to the light that He gives, and if I obey at that point, there is total commitment. But then there is another commitment, and another…and another…and the whole story of the Christian life is one commitment after another as you seek to follow Him.
I conclude by stating this: I cannot know that I have ever reached the point of no return, but I can know if I am living now, at this point and at this moment, down to the depths of total commitment. Are you living to capacity? Are you living to the limit of your commitment to the Lord Jesus? You will never reach the point of no return because there is always a fuller commitment waiting ahead for you. But are you living right now to the point of full obedience to the light the Lord has given you?
I would give you three evidences that I would ever seek in my own life, for you to seek in yours if you want reality.
1. The evidence of fire.When David sinned in counting the people and God’s judgment was against him, he brought a burnt offering (1 Chronicles 21). We read that God answered from heaven by fire upon the burnt offering. This is an Old Testament illustration of the inevitable thing that happens when there is total commitment: it is fire! John the Baptist said, “There cometh one after me; He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” And when the Spirit of God came, He came as tongues of living flame, there was fire! I do not, of course, mean a literal flame, but something that gets your religion from your head to your heart, something that puts passion into it, and cleanses your life. It is something that burns within you and makes you know that, come what may and no matter what enemies oppose you, there is something within you that is pulling you through. This was Paul’s experience in 2 Timothy 4:16. The fire of the Spirit of God, burning upon the altar of utter surrender, pulls a man through, and no matter how many lions threaten him, he knows the Lord stands with him.
There is nothing that this city needs, this church needs, your college needs, you need for heaven more than orthodoxy literally catching the flame and going through with a passion for souls, anywhere for Jesus! Test your commitment by that. Is the fire burning, and is the love of Christ constraining you?
2. The evidence of fellowship,1 John 1:7. Fellowship one with another keeps the fire burning. An evidence of total commitment up to the limit of your capacity is fellowship with Jesus: an open heaven, an ungrieved Spirit, a walk with God, the sense of His presence, the surrounding of His everlasting arms, the knowledge that you are on the rock. Though often you may tremble on it, it never moves under you, and in every experience, no matter how testing, there is a sense of fellowship. He is real and near, not a theory but a living Person, and you walk with Him each day. The test of your commitment is that there is nothing between your soul and your Saviour.
3. The evidence of God’s faithfulness,2 Timothy 4:17-18. His daily provisionof material things and spiritual needs is the manna that comes to the heart of the child of God whose trust is in Him. His moment by moment outpouring of supply is not grace for tomorrow, but sufficient just for this moment today. His provision is power:power to meet you in your weakness; power that comes when you reach the place where you just feel you could not go on without the Lord. His power is right there to see you through and help you. Perhaps most precious of all is His peace,the peace of God that passes all understanding.
If you are not living in total commitment to the Lord Jesus, then you know nothing of the fire. It has died out. You know nothing of His fellowship, it is not real. You are not experiencing the joy of His faithfulness. You can test right now whether you are living to capacity.
You can lose all these things and yet be a child of God, but you will be just “playing around with life.” May heaven help you today, to use the slang term, “to get on the ball” for the Lord Jesus, and to know in your heart the fire burning, that sweet fellowship with the Spirit of God, the Lord in your life in power that you may prove God’s faithfulness.