To a holy life there is both an uplook and an outlook. The uplook is the blessed hope of Christ's return. We must be holy to meet the Lord in the air and to receive the reward which His coming will bring. The outlook is the world-wide harvest field. We are saved to serve; we are sanctified to minister the riches of Divine grace to the sinful and needy.
I. The Uplook.
To a holy heart is vouchsafed a heavenly vision. Eyes that are cleared of the mists of sin behold undimmed the face of the Lord. Thus Jesus said:
"Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God." (Matthew v. 8.)
Again, the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews says:
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." (xii. 14.)
Now, the personal return of our blessed Lord is the highest incentive to a holy life. In I. John iii. 1-3 we read:
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.
"And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure."
Among the children of God there is a growing belief that the return of Christ is near at hand. The exact time of His coming, however, is uncertain. Nevertheless, it is our duty to watch for the appearing of Christ, and be ready to meet Him, when He comes in the air.
The story is told of a father, who once went on a journey, leaving word with his family that he expected to return by a certain train on an appointed day. When the day arrived, the mother washed and dressed the children and sent them to the depot to meet their father. But he did not come. So the following day the children went again, and the next day after, and still the next; indeed, they continued every day to meet that train, until at last the father came. One good effect of the father's uncertain arrival was that the children kept clean.
Beloved, are we keeping our hearts and lives clean in daily expectation of the return of our Lord? Some day we shall all have to meet Christ face to face. And the momentous question is: How shall we meet Him? Shall it be in servile fear or in childlike confidence? The beloved apostle exhorts us:
"And now little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming." (I. John ii. 28.)
To this end let us heed the solemn warning of the Saviour:
"Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning:
"Lest coming suddenly He finds you sleeping.
"And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch." (Mark xiii. 35-37.)
To those who are slothful and unprepared Christ will appear as a righteous Judge; but to those who are watchful and prepared He will appear as a Beloved Friend. But the personal return of our blessed Lord is also the truest inspiration of a holy life. In II. Peter iii. 10-14, we read:
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
"Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
"Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless."
This is an impressive example of a class of New Testament passages which represent the personal return of Christ as the only hope of the world and the Church. Morally, the world of today is wabbling in its orbit, madly plunging toward despair and destruction. Spiritually, the professing church of this age, in the judgment of a writer of exceptional spiritual discernment and wide observation, is in a state of petrifaction and putrifaction-hardness and rottenness. The alert believer, who accurately reads "the signs of the times," finds little encouragement to look for improvement. Indeed, the only hope of both the Church and the world is the purifying fire of "the day of the Lord." According to prophecy this dispensation will end in dissolution and destruction; but out of the universal wreck "we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." This millennial age of righteousness and peace will be ushered in by the personal return of Christ. Our hope, therefore, is not in the fading present, but in the radiant future. Indeed, the only thing worth living for is the coming of the Lord.
Some years ago there lived a lad in one of the states of the Central West. Thoughtful and studious by nature, yet his view of life was, of course, bounded by the mind of a boy. He loved the games and gatherings of childhood; indeed, the anticipation of going to a birthday surprise party would give him pleasure for many a day. But the lad grew and his outlook upon life widened. Early he caught a vision of college; and he thought that to be a freshman in the great university would fill his cup of joy to the brim. In course of time the youth entered college, but found that the delights of freshman life were not all he had dreamed. Then he thought that the height of ambition must be to be a senior and graduate with honor on Commencement Day. In due time, indeed, he became a senior, and in cap and gown received his degree with honor amid the plaudits of fond parents and admiring friends. But the young graduate's cup of joy was not full; and so again he widened the horizon of his ambition. He then decided that the supreme goal of his life would be reached, if he should go through a theological seminary, become pastor of a church, and be ordained to the ministry. All this came in its time, and along with it additional academic honors and degrees. When at last, however, the young minister stood in his own pulpit, and faced his own people, he again found that his dream was unfulfilled; he realized that his heart was not satisfied. Yet he was indeed devoutly grateful that God had "counted him faithful, putting him into the ministry." Moreover, he did esteem it the most exalted privilege to "preach the unsearchable riches of Christ." But he had not found the supreme goal, the true source of the highest inspiration and the deepest satisfaction of Christian life and service. The thought came to him of attempting to build up a big church, of striving to become a great preacher, or of seeking to win distinction in scholarship; but none of these things were lofty enough and enduring enough to fire his mind and stir his heart to its profoundest depths. In fact, he had no ideal which completely satisfied his ambition and which was thus worth living for. Finally, one day there came to the young minister the heavenly uplook. His faith caught the sublime vision of. the glorious hope of Christ's return. His heart was filled with expectant joy. At last his early dream was fully realized. At last he had his ideal. At last he had found the supreme goal of Christian service, and the true source of the highest inspiration and the deepest satisfaction of a holy life. Since that memorable day he has taken as his glowing watchword: "Unto the coming of the Lord."
Beloved, what is your ideal? What are you living for? God declares that He has set eternity in our hearts. How, then, can we ever be satisfied with the pleasures and pursuits of time? May you speedily learn that there is nothing in this world worth living for. May God give you the heavenly uplook. May your faith catch the glorious vision of Christ's return. May you, like the young minister, find "that blessed hope" to be the supreme goal of Christian service and the true source of the highest inspiration and the deepest satisfaction of a holy heart. Indeed, over your whole life may you inscribe the sublime watchword: "Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God."
II. The Outlook.
Finally and briefly, to a holy heart there comes an outward calling. Eyes that have caught the heavenly vision are open to the harvest fields of the world. In John iv. 35, Christ says:
"Say not ye, there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest."
Now, holiness means separation for service. The separation is unto God; but the service is for man. Yet all service for man is of course, also service for God. Therefore, sanctification, while a blessed experience, is not an end in itself; it is rather a glorious means to a still more glorious end. This end is a rife of fruitful and abiding service alike to God and man. Indeed, we are saved to serve; we are sanctified to minister the riches of Divine grace to the sinful and needy.
A holy heart, then, will be an unselfish heart. It will not live for itself, but will expend its consecrated energies in ready service and in willing sacrifice for others. Again, a holy heart will bear fruit unto God. Fruit is the result of the incoming of the Spirit and the indwelling of Christ. It manifests itself not only in active ministry but also in passive suffering. It includes graces of character as well as records of achievement. Finally, a holy heart will burn with missionary fire. It will have a passion for souls. It will love the lost and seek to win them. Moreover, it will be pressed in spirit towards "the regions beyond."
Beloved, have you received the Holy Ghost? Have you taken Christ to be your sanctification? Have you had a vision of the world's need? Has there come to you the outward calling? If so, then you are living an unselfish life. Then you are bringing forth fruit unto God. Then you are burning with missionary zeal. If so, then you have a passion for souls. Then you love the lost and are seeking to save them. Then you are pressed in spirit towards "the regions beyond." Surely, you will go, if you can. Surely, you will give what you can. Surely, you will pray all you can.
"Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." (Isaiah vi. 9.)
"Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.* * *" (I. Corinthians xvi. 2.)
"Therefore said He unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth laborers into His harvest." (Luke x. 2.)