My subject this morning is “Losing,” and my text is a part of the third verse of the second chapter of the second letter to the Thessalonians:
“For that day shall not come except there come a falling away first.”
There are also four or five verses in the eighth chapter of Jeremiah that I want to use as a backbone of the things I wish to say to you. I want to show how we “lose out”; how we “fall away.”
I want to talk very tenderly—as tenderly as I know how, by the power of the Holy Spirit, about the grave danger that is surrounding your life—the danger in the day in which we live of your losing the rich things of God. I am not talking this morning to men who will be backsliding into open sin, or women backsliding into the things of the world, but I am talking to Christians who these days are losing their former experience, their former love, and the glow and the joy and the power of a spirit-filled life. I am talking to myself as much as I am to you, and, my friends, let us listen while the Lord speaks to our hearts. I may say it backward, but the Holy Spirit will be there to give it a whirl before it meets your ears, and get it straight into your heart.
The first accusation which our Lord makes against the church in the Revelation is this: “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” For a while I thought that meant a man who had gotten away from that early joy that he knew when first he found the Lord—that time that he sang, “Oh, happy day that fixed my choice.” But, friends, I do not believe that God wants us to think for a minute that the first joy that a Christian has is the best joy. Thank God it was a great joy to me when I found the Lord: but oh, friends, I have had joy since then that surpasses anything I had to commence with, and if you have to hark back to the joy you had when first you knew the Lord you have a retrograding experience, and you can only travel around the mulberry bush and sing a song of past days instead of a song of present blessings.
I do not say this dogmatically, but I believe that the word that is used in this verse translated “first” has a different meaning from what we understand by the word “first” as we read the text—that is, first in an order of loves; as though I say “This is first and that is second.”
I believe it means a “first-class love,” a “first-rate love”—that very finest love, that glowing fervor of love that a Christian ought to know after he meets the Lord and has had his first joy and experience; that joy that comes from the Holy Spirit’s fullness after full consecration, where it bubbles from the heart—love, joy, peace, gentleness, long-suffering, the very spirit of Jesus—and people know it is a life that you have from God and not from yourself.
It is not simply emotionalism. It is sweet unction from the Holy One—that delight “when heaven comes down our souls to meet, and glory crowns the mercy seat.” Not first in the order of rank, but that first-class love, that fine love, that glorious love that God put in your heart one day. Oh, you cannot work without it; you cannot live without it; you cannot go along in power and victory without it. You must be “rooted and grounded in love.” God is love, and, oh, if you are to walk with Him you will be filled with the fullness of His love, with compassion, with a love for humanity that is not natural, but is God-given. The devil strikes at this “first-rate” love, to take from us that keen edge that cuts and works for God. The little tricks of Satan get in somehow, and get you to the place where your heart does not work with His heart; where the joy does not flow any more.
Belief is Right
You believe everything you used to believe—you would stand for it and fight for it—but the old oil, the old joy, isn’t there any more, and you have lost your grip; you have lost your power, lost your passion, lost your equipment,and you realize this morning that you are not what you once were in your relation to His great heart.
Oh, I tenderly plead with you: Listen to the Spirit of God as He speaks to you this morning, and get back where God wants you; or, if you have never gotten up, get up to the place where God wants you to be.
First let us read the sixth verse of the eighth chapter of Jeremiah:
“No man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? Every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.”
“No man repented.”I believe in repentance for the sinner, but a million times more I believe in repentance for Christians. It is necessary for the sinner to repent, but oh, my friends, if anybody ought to repent when sin has come into the life it is a Christian. The sinner who rises out of his filth is ashamed of it and puts it away, and takes Jesus as his Saviour, and the blood to wash him clean; but after you have put on the spotless robe of righteousness, a clean dress from head to foot, and then have dirtied it and soiled it, you ought to feel a million times worse than a sinner feels. One great blot that stands in the way of your being filled with the love of God is your lack of repentance, of admitting your sins, of confessing them and pleading the blood to cover.
Admit You Were Wrong
The hardest thing God ever had to do with me was to make me admit my sin to my own wife after I became a Christian, when I was wrong, when my spirit was wrong, when my words were wrong, when my action was wrong, but, friends, I could not live a holy life in that home unless when I had done wrong I would confess it to the people who had heard it. Love would not bubble, and God could not witness in my heart in power unless when I had slipped I repented and confessed it. It is hard to look in the face of people who respect you and look up to you and say to them: “Brother, sister, I was wrong; I wronged you.” But it pays, friends, to admit that you are wrong. I have had to admit it in my life—and if any man on Earth has faults I have them. I am not here this morning pleading with you because of the lack of faults in myself, but, bless God, a man can admit he is wrong by the grace of God; a man can say, “Forgive me, brother: my spirit has not been right toward you,” and if you want the tender joy of the Holy Ghost to be in your heart, friend, ask people’s forgiveness and repent of that hardness of heart, that harsh word, that cold word that you spoke to some of the children of God.
It is hard to say it, but SAY IT.I know it kills—but God wants you to “mortify your members which are upon earth.” There is nothing in the old man that is good, and every time you have a chance to see the Holy Spirit stick a dagger in him, do it! No, it is not easy, but it is the warfare of the saint if you are going to keep in this love—life with God; be rooted and grounded in love. You must keep right with others.
You know we all are raised differently, and it is easy to bite each other’s necks and do some of these things; but, oh, the Christian is the man who repents and puts it under the blood and says, “Oh, God, I never want to do it again; to have it in my life again”; and as you do this God above warms your heart. The hardest thing I know of for a Christian to say is this: “I was wrong.” You will find out if you don’t do it that a callus will come to your soul—a darkness—and you will not think clearly about spiritual things; your spiritual nature becomes warped, and you don’t get the floods of love and the raptures of vision in your life. You have “grieved the Spirit.” You would not take sides against sin; you hugged it to your heart to protect yourself and protect your own pride, and you were not willing to be humiliated. So you have to cut off this love that He wants to pour through your heart. You have checked the flow.
Blocked The Flow
I do not want to put you under the law. I want to put you under grace, and show you that the irrigation system that flows from Calvary can be blocked by a lack of repentance, and the water that would bring forth sweet-smelling fruit in your life and the graces flowing from the heart of God do not come, because you have dammed up the stream by your own lack of repentance.
Will you this morning say: “Lord, I will repent”? As I study the lives of the prophets and of godly men I find this characteristic in them: They repented. They have seasons with God when they cry out “Undone, undone!” and confess and repent to God, and, like Isaiah with his coal of fire, he had to say: “Woe is me, for I am undone; I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of people of unclean lips.” Friends, if there is ever to be power there must be cleanness. God can make us clean, but we will not come to the refreshing times. Why? Because we do not like to get down before God.
“What Have I Done?”
This is the next phrase in the verse. This is man’s attitude. ”That’s all right. What have I done?” you ask. We are not your lawyers; we are not your judges. Why ask us? Deal with God. You say: “What is the difference—what is the difference between me and that fellow? I haven’t done anything.” All right. Stand up for yourself now, and fight hard—but you will find out that all that love, that sweet, joyous life of grace, has somehow had a damper put upon it. Nobody is accusing you but the Holy Spirit—but you are saying: “What have I done? What have I done?”
What have you done?I could not put my hand on it this morning, but as truly as you are in my congregation I know there is something wrong; and everybody knows there is something wrong; the family knows it, the people in your business know it, the people in the church know it. You have blocked that life that comes from abandonment to God, and now you are standing in a legal place and saying: “What have I done? I haven’t sinned. You have no right to judge me.”
No, brother; that is all right—but you have lost your first-class love.
A very beautiful young woman had a very severe sickness, and when she went back into society again after her sickness she came home crying. Broken-hearted, she asked her mother: “Haven’t I the same face I had before?”
“Yes, you have the same face?”
“Haven’t I the same beautiful hair—the same eyes? There are no blotches on my cheeks, are there? What is the matter?”
“I don’t know,” the mother answered.
She asked her sister, but her sister said, “I don’t know.” She asked other people. She would look in the mirror at her face, and her eyes, and she could not see what she had lost. She had lost her charm—that indescribable something; but you could not tell how she had lost it, or just what lines in her face changed, but the charm was gone.
Our dear Brother Harry Monroe, after he was taken sick and had that distressing physical trouble that made him almost despondent at times, asked Jacoby “What is the matter?” He looked just the same. And Jacoby looked him in the face and said: “Harry, you have lost your smile.” And Harry smiled up at him, but it wasn’t the same. But, praise God, it came back to his face before very long, and now he is smiling in the glory.
So there are these non-repentance depressions that keep away that peculiar thing that comes out of a heart because it is filled with God. Brother, are you standing up for yourself this morning, or are you willing to go down before God? Are you standing up against what you know people are thinking about you in this regard and saying: “Oh, I don’t care what they think”? Or is your attitude one of humility, and are you willing to go down before God?
“Every One Turned To His Course As The Horse Rusheth Into The Battle”
That word in the last part of this sixth verse never ought to be in a Christian’s vocabulary: RUSH. Saul went awfully wrong on that word. He said, There had to be an offering, Samuel, so I “forced myself”; I couldn’t wait for you any longer, and the people were crying, and I had to satisfy the people. What right had he to do it himself?
And you will find out that just as soon as you lose that spontaneous love glow you will be trying to force something in your life. You will try to force that “Amen.” Haven’t you all heard it? It sounds like a tin can rattling.
Compelled By Love
Oh, I love that chorus in the Song of Solomon, that wonderful chorus of the bride as she cries out again and again: “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field”—the common real things—“that ye stir not up, nor awaken my love, until it please.” I don’t want this love you maidens are trying to give me by telling me how many diamonds Solomon has, or what a gorgeous palace is his. I loved him as a shepherd boy. Let my love come as a real love, a spontaneous love.
Oh, my friend, get back to Calvary this morning, and look in His poor face, His bleeding side, and feel His tender compassion as He cries with those swollen lips: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” See Him taking His place in humility for you. I tell you it will take away this foolishness of your trying to rush in. Don’t try to push in, and say “I have got to keep my work up; I have got to have my Sunday school class; got to do my church work.”
Forcing Past Conviction
You are forcing yourself. This is the one characteristic of the church on Earth today. It is doing everything by business methods, business ingenuity, push, organization; trying by all these methods to do the spiritual things. It is not backed up by prayer; it is not backed up by waiting upon God, and God cannot bless it at all. It is not backed up by this warm compassion and impelling power and love of the Holy Ghost, but by the love of getting ahead, by the love of success—that is the spirit of our times, and it is pushing the church today. Don’t let rush push you out. Get back to God first, and when His power of love comes it will push you out naturally. Oh, there is love, love in the heart of God, my friend, that will take you to the end of sacrifice and push you into your work and will be oil and unction and power to push you forth. Don’t try to work it up yourself, but get it down from heaven into your heart by getting the clogs out of the stream.
Knowing When To Move
“Yes, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming.”
The little swallow knows the time; the turtledove knows the time; the old crane—they all know the time of their coming. My friend, Mr. K., out west, became very much interested in the birds that come through the Mississippi valley. The lake near which my friend lived, Lake Pippin, is part of the Mississippi River, where it just broadens for about three miles and the river flows through it. It is a great place for birds as they take the Mississippi Central south, or go north to Alaska for their summer home. Because of the great number of visiting birds he began the study of ornithology, and he and his wife took great delight in finding out the habits of these birds and the families to which they belonged. They set up little bird houses to attract them, and kept a daybook and knew the very first bird that was due in the spring to show up at just a certain time.
And there, on schedule time, the little visitor would be, on the back fence or the apple tree. My friends made their back yard a welcome place for all the little travelers as they passed. They found just what kind of food the different birds liked and would put it out for them. They found that, week after week, year after year, it would always be the same time when certain birds came to visit them. I would go to his house sometimes and would ask him, “Well, who is coming today?” And he would say, “We think we shall have the thrushes today.”
“I wouldn’t know a thrush from a woodpecker,” I would tell him. “What do they look like?”
And he would say, “Isn’t that a shame?” and would try to educate me by getting out the book and showing me their colors and telling me about their habits. Sometimes he would go out into the yard and there he would lie, looking up into the trees with a pair of field glasses, and hearing all the messages from that little fellow from Alaska or Virginia, or wherever he had come from. They knew the seasons, and when to come, and were so regular that, as I have said, they land in his back yard season after season, according to the schedule on his book.
Losing The Signal
The crane knows the time of its coming; the swallow knows when to appear; the turtledove knows her time; “but my people know not the judgment of the Lord.” My people, God was saying in other words, somehow have lost the instinct of how to move when I speak. My friend, we have lost the vision of the judgment of God, or let us say God’s signal for moving, God’s whistle—that is the sense in which he uses this word “judgment”; not the sense of impending doom. I go downtown in an automobile, and the policeman is at the corner, and as the traffic approaches he blows his whistle and regulates the traffic. God’s complaint is that the people do not know when He says “Go ahead!” The Holy Spirit will try His best to get people into service. Some of you don’t know this tabernacle is going, the service is going on here, and you are home at nights. You have a thousand excuses, and I grant every one of them, to stay away. It’s easy to get them—anybody can get them; but oh, my friend, it is not “in the place of sacrifice.” I thank God for all of you who are working as hard as you do and come as much as you do. But, friends, I love you; I know you; you cannot meet me outside of this tabernacle, unless you sit back of that fourth division, and say “Mr. Rader, you never saw me.” I have your number and know your face; I know when you show up. I know when I come in here on certain nights and there isn’t a deacon or an elder or a member of the church committee here, or a man I can call on to pray, and I have to do the praying myself.
He Is Moving
Hear me tenderly, in God’s name, for this is a great time of His moving, and the opportunity will pass and you will be left out of your reward. When the waters are troubled learn to come in. When God starts a movement get in; and let me tell you something, my friends: God is starting a deep, spiritual movement in the city of Chicago. Last night, while listening to the superintendents of the Cook County Sunday School Association, I never felt more in my life that God is going to the very center and the heart of our church life in Chicago and shaking it up and talking to men and women. Men are hungry to get away from methods and back to the omnipotent power of God and back to the old Book. They do not all head in just yet; they do not see it, but, oh, God is moving, and in these last days he is hungry to gather out from the great crowd a people for His own—the bride of His own heart. God is moving. God is calling. God is urging. Do not lose out by not knowing when God is saying “Forward!”
Do It Now
Hear me, Christian friends: If you ever in all your life want to do anything for God, do it now.The days are short and few, and it is only the devil that is bluffing you and keeping you from moving out. “The swallow knows.” DO YOU? “The turtledove knows.” DO YOU? Is the Holy Spirit talking to you? Oh, it is easy for you to come on Sunday mornings and Sunday nights—even the sinners do the decent thing and come on Sundays. Are you after your friends who are in the next flat? Are you after the men who are in your employ, or in the shop with you? Are their souls on your conscience, and are you free of their blood before God this morning?
Listen: This is the day of a falling away, a losing out. If the thing that separates us from this first-class love had hoofs and horns we could get a club and put it to death. If it had a roar and a song and beat a drum we could kill it. But it comes with chloroform. It can get you off the job before you know it. It is a deadly dope. The first thing you know you will be petting yourself. If you aren’t careful the devil will be saying to you: “You worked awfully hard for Jesus last week”—and you will pet yourself. The first thing you know you will be thinking “Poor me,” and forgetting about the man out yonder who is going down to the darkness.
Oh, friends, the rescue man is a soldier. He endures hardness and gets hardtack and cold nights. We are living in the easy days. God help us this morning to be good soldiers; to say to ourselves: “I am not going to allow these little things to grip me and chloroform me and cheat me out of this blessed love life with the Lord.”
You know that the happiest days of your Christian life were the days when you were giving yourself in abandonment in service to God. Then somebody told you to “be careful” and checked you up. Maybe somebody nice around the house said: “I guess we had better stay home tonight.” And it is nice to stay home—but, friends, we are in a warfare, and this old world needs Jesus, and needs the folks who sacrifice. I looked at little Mother Clarke last Sunday night up here, and thought of the six thousand nights and over she spent down there at the mission. Think of it! Others could rest, but God kept her going. Somebody keeps the lights trimmed and burning. IS IT YOU?
God help you to sacrifice! Maybe some of you are worked to death; but how do you know it is God’s work? How do you know but the devil has tied you up with a thousand things so that you could not serve Jesus? Why don’t you take it to Jesus and say: “Master, is this Your will for me? Am I to be tied like this? Is this what You want me to do?” Take it to Him and find out for yourself.
When the whistle blows are you prepared to go ahead and do as He tells you?
Jeremiah 8:12: “They were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush.”
I take this, my friends, as a sort of callus that gets on a man. There was a time he would tremble when God talked to him, but he does not do that any more. The sermon slips off. The preacher may have talked from the very heart of God, but it slips off. Are you in such shape this morning that you can leave these doors and it slips off you? Then something is wrong. Maybe some of you have not grown spiritually for two or three years. There is something back there somewhere that has checked this flow of the sap of God’s life and the spirit of Jesus in your heart. What is it? Have you become callous and stopped your growth? Then examine yourself before God. Get down in earnest before Him and say: “Search me, Oh God, and try me, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” And God will search; His light will come in and show you. Oh, friends, get before Him until He can prime the branches of your life. There is nothing I delight in so much as having a susceptible heart before God, so that God can teach me and says to me anything He wants to say. And if you will take these chastening times from God, and “blush and be ashamed,” God can lead you on.
In The Potter’s Hands
I told you about the Mexican, sitting outside one of the little adobe houses down there, working on a little piece of pottery on a little wheel. All of a sudden he grabbed it into his hands and slapped it together and pushed it around and stuck it in the water again. One of the men asked him why he did it—and someone interpreted it for the rest of them: “The Mexican says it isn’t susceptible to his touch—it has bumps in it.”
Oh, my friends, are you clay in the hands of the potter? You have thought you could run your own life; but, friend, let Him mold you and make you on His own wheel this morning. You can afford to do it. I am just calling attention to some of the bumps this morning, so that if the devil is trying to get you to think it is all right you will say: “Lord, take me and mold me after thine own will.”
“Have thine own way, Lord; have thine own way—
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.”
“We are wise and the law of the Lord is with us.”
This is another portion in Jeremiah 8. Friends, as far as teaching is concerned, you are the most well-taught people I know of. You have had the best preachers in the world, the best teachers in the world. What people have had more Bible teachers than you? What people have been under the very eaves of Bible classes in the Institute as you have been? You have had men and women from all over this country, and from Europe also, to teach you. And if you are not careful you will say “The law of the Lord is with us.” We are a fat crowd. I admit it. We have been well fed. But do you show you keep? A rough expression for a horse when he kicks up his heels and is ready to work hard is “He feels his oats.” You have been well fed—but do you show it? Is the activity of your life showing it, and the exuberance of your spirit and the flow of the love of God out of your heart equal to your teaching?
I have seen great leanness come among people who have gone into the deeper things of the Bible, who in the past some time had the Bible constantly before them, and read it and knew it—but the first thing you know there wouldn’t be any sinners saved in any of the meetings—not a man brought to Jesus. Stagnation came. They came to the place where they said: “The law of the Lord is with us. We have great teachers and great preachers, and a great deal of praying—the law is with us.”
If you aren’t careful you will be an umpire. I sometimes hate to elevate a man out of the common ranks of the church to any kind of an office for fear he will stop his work. It chills him. He says now: “I have gotten somewhere—I am an umpire. It is my business to get on the side lines and sit and watch.” That may be the greatest enemy of your life. Once you were a mixer; now you sit and criticize. You went up and down the aisles and spoke to people; now you can say: “I have belonged to the church for quite a while; I am an umpire now.” You have lost that common touch of mixing in and being one of the crowd.
Oh, my friends, get away from this umpire business this morning—from thinking you have “arrived.” There are glorious things in Jesus yet for you. Get on into these things this morning. Let God lead you on.
Jeremiah 8:14: “Why do we sit still? Assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defenced cities.”
Why do we sit still? There is a city, thank God, that is built with walls—and these little creeping things that have come in cannot get past those walls. You say: “Mr. Rader, do you tell me about a defenced city into which we can go this morning and be absolutely safe?”
Yes, my friends; and there are two I want to call your attention to, where, thank God, you will be kept as long as you live. The first one is this: “And his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in that law doth he meditate day and night.” He never thinks he is through studying the Bible; he never thinks it is a common thing to study the Bible. “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in that law doth he meditate day and night.” The man who would be entering the defenced city has regular periods in his life for reading this Word; and he must read it every day—and he does not read it from duty, but he hunts through it as a wild beast roams through the forest and hunts for his food. That is a defenced city. The Word of God is sure.
The reason the church has drifted, the reason there is a falling away, the reason denominationalism is way out on the rocks this morning, is because men in the pulpit have drifted from this Word.
God says that the man who delights and meditates in His Word “shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season.” Yes, sir. He will “know” like the swallow then. He will know like the crane then, for God speaks to him out of His Word, and when God speaks he moves. He brings forth fruit in his season.
His leaf, thank God, shall not wither. He won’t grow stale and wither up and blow off as the wind carries the autumn leaves down the gutter. He will bloom and blossom in the church, and be of more value to God as the days go by. “Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Isn’t that a defenced city? Didn’t you get away from the Word of God before you got away from anything else? Sure! Then get back and browse in The Book.
What is the other defenced city? Armor—the armor. “Put on the whole armor of God.” What for? To pray. Why? I thought it was to get out and fight folks. No. TO PRAY. Prayer is the other citadel, and the man who browses in the Word and gets into this armor, this life of prayer, is in the two defenced cities, thank God. Prayer—where he does not try to settle things himself, but lets God settle them in the prayer closet. “Not by might nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord.”
Oh, friends, will we take these warnings this morning as from God, and run quickly into the defenced city, back to the book to read it and reread it, and to meditate upon it? Will we take to our closets to wait upon God until we have gained the victory there? And if we can beat the devil in prayer we can beat him anywhere. And if he cannot beat us in prayer he cannot beat us anywhere.
Why sit we still this morning? Let us say to God: We will come back—back to these defenced cities—and dwell therein. We will not fall away; but, in true repentance, admitting our sins and our callus, our rush and failure, we will find His “First-Class Love.”