Jesus Finding Philip
( Originally Published 1895 )
"The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me."óJohn i. 43.
JESUS is always seeking after men. Men follow him because he first follows them. It was thus he sought Matthew at the receipt of customs, and so wrought upon him that Matthew left his business and changed the whole course of his life, and the very next thing we hear about him, he is making a public feast for Jesus, so that the whole community may know he has become a Christian. So he sought Zaccheus, another customs officer down in Jericho. He found him up in a tree. He had to make all the advances himself. Zaccheus did not dare invite him to his house for fear of being snubbed. But Jesus invited himself in such a tender way that Zaccheus climbed down joyfully out of the tree and led the way to his house, and after he had opened his heart to the Lord and salvation had come to him and his household, Jesus revealed to him the secret of his great mission : " The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." We have seen how he found Andrew in the company With John the Baptist. Later he found Paul on the way to Damascus, when he was known as Saul of Tarsus, - and was full of anger and hate, and determined to have vengeance on all Christians. But Jesus sought after him and something of his glory shone around about Saul, and that loving, seeking voice inquired, " Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." And there was something in that tender voice that broke Saul's heart, and changed the whole purpose of his life, for he "was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision." And so he has been calling men all the way along down the centuries. He called John Bunyan when he was a poor drunken tinker, and ignorant and marred as he was by sin before that, he followed Christ so close that he was able to make it possible for him to write that wonderful book, " Pilgrim's Progress," that has filled the whole world full of fragrance and glory, and will make heaven ring with his name through-out eternity. He called Martin Luther when he was a poor, unknown monk, and when he followed him in faithfulness, made him the evangel of the great Reformation, the tides of which are still sweeping in blessing over the earth. He called Dwight L. Moody, sought after him when he was a dry-goods clerk in Boston, and he followed him so closely that he has probably led more souls to Christ in the last generation than any other man on the earth. Oh, the wonderful seeking Savior ! How many of us here to-night remember when he sought us and found us and called lis to be hls disciples. How well I remember when he called me it all stands out in my mind to-night. If I had a skilful hand to sketch, I could draw you a perfect picture of the chapel at the college at the watch-night service, close to the midnight, when Jesus said, as he never had said before and with a tenderness that melted my heart, "Follow me."
The saddest part about all this vein of thought is that he seeks out so many, and finds them, and they throw away the call. Think of it, Judas had a call as sure and as genuine as Andrew or Peter or Philip, and he sold it for thirty pieces of silver. Are there any here to-night that have sold their call for the paltry treasures of the world, for the evanescent pleasures of an evening, for the vile indulgences of a sinful appetite? Alas, I have known men who bartered their call from heaven and their prospect for everlasting life for a glass of beer or a bottle of whisky. And I have known others, who would scorn the rude indulgences of passion or lust, to barter just as surely their soul's hope for the idle, silly frivolities of social life.
There is a great lesson in this seeking out of Philip by the Lord Jesus, and in the way he is constantly seeking out people, for all of us who are trying to do that which will be pleasing to him. The whole life and mission of the Son of God, who is also the Son of man, teaches us from every page that the only way to do any great thing for humanity is to give ourselves. Each one of us is given a personality so individual, so unique in quality and temperament and gift, that no matter how much wealth you might have, or influence or power in other ways, the greatest possible thing you can do for the world is to give up to the leadership of Christ your inmost self. We all recognize the value of this personal quality in everything that we see or hear. We like a painting if it seems to bring to us some inner soul message which is a conception of the man who painted it. The artist is an artist because God has given him the power to see in nature, or to see in the face of a man or woman, what ordinary people do not see. It is his gift, it is the badge of his genius, it is his credential, and it is that which gives to the great pictures their fascination and their undying value. t is the same in music. You hear some people sing, the technique of whose performance is perfect. They know all that the schools can give them. They have superiority of voice and an artistic polish, so to speak, of tone, but there is something lacking. They have not given us themselves. When they sing they give us only the tone and skill and art, they do not give us themselves. They do not give us their hearts, their souls, their personalities. And be-cause of that they cannot, and do not, move us in the profound depths of our being. t is the same thing in public speech. The supreme power of the orator is not in graceful sentences, but in that supreme abandon of himself by which his personality aflame comes in contact with others ready to be kindled, and they warm their hearts at his fire. How tenderly all this is illustrated in the sympathy and comfort which we sometimes try to give each other. It is nothing at all without the self, in times of great grief and agony. A thousand eloquent phrases do not mean as much as one sob or one tear or one grip of the hand or one lightning flash of the eye that brings to the sorrowing heart the conviction that you have given yourself.
Jesus Christ gave himself to the world, gave himself for the lost, gave himself for us. t is the most stupendous sacrifice in all history, because it is the glory and riches of God emptied to share earth's sorrow and temptation. And he was able to save the lost because he had given all his strength and wisdom and sympathy and love, a consecration to the one great purpose. O brothers and sisters, shall we not learn the great lesson? We can win souls when we are willing to give ourselves; when we are willing to give, not little fragments here and there, not a little bit of money now and then, not only now and then an evening to holy meditation which may have more selfishness in it than anything else, but when we give our very selves with all that we are, and all that we have, to seeking after the lost, expecting to find our joy, our peace, our luxury in thus sharing the cross of Jesus Christ. Then, and not till then, will we have that supreme power which Christ had of awakening in a lost soul a divine homesickness for goodness and heaven.
It was the supreme triumph of Philip's life that when Jesus found him, whatever he was doing, whatever plans he may have had in hand, he changed them all immediately, and turned about and followed the Lord Jesus, and promptly entered upon his service. God grant it may be so with many here to-night ! Dr. Jesse Bowman Young. of St. Louis, found a most helpful editorial sermon the other day in some of the signs posted along the route of an electric car line. At one point the message was, "Run slow" ; and again at another place, " Opposite this post all eastbound cars must come to a full stop !" Any one seeing the sign could easily understand that there was danger ahead, and that just at that point the safety of the car and its passengers demanded a full stop. And as he studied these signs he thought they were much like those that are often posted up by God's providence along the way of our human lives. I doubt not there are some who hear me to-night who are facing temptation to grievous sin. Wicked appetites are inflamed. Unholy passions are aroused. Or covetous desires, it may be, are awakened. And before you the devil paints a mirage of seeming ease and indolence, or of sensual gratification, or of greedy ambition or sinful folly. And as you are standing thus before your temptation you come to hear God's word, and as I speak it to you to-night the din of the world's noise seems a little farther away, and the Holy Spirit is arousing your conscience, and your conscience is saying to you : " Come to a full stop ! See how full of peril, of folly, of ruin, is the path you have been tempted to follow. Take not another step in the way of sin. Stop just here !"
Or it may be that long ago you were led into a sin; sometimes you have gone recklessly on in it and have drowned every voice of rebuke, and almost imagined that your sin had been forgotten because your conscience disturbed you so little, and then again your better nature has revolted and you have struggled a little. Ah, it may be you have struggled a good deal. Possibly like the man in the gospel who turned out the evil spirit and even swept and garnished his soul, you may have for a little time cast out your besetting sin. But you failed to follow Christ, and so in an unguarded moment it came back again, reenforced, and more terrible than ever; and to-night you are in the grip of your old enemy. Oh, I pray God that while I speak to you the Holy Spirit may write in letters of living fire before your gaze, " Come to a full stop ! Cease to do evil, begin to do well !"
How wise it is to obey these injunctions now, while health and strength and opportunity are given us, for there is certain to come a time, we know not when, but it is doubtless very near to some of us who are here to-night, when all our earthly plans will be broken up and when the end of this life will come for us. It may come suddenly like a flash out of the sky. You may have a week or a month over which you shall look and see breaking right across your path an open grave, and above it the notice which you cannot ignore, however you may have ignored the signs of mercy and warning, a notice which you cannot disobey; it will read, " Here you must come to a full stop !"
Dear brothers and sisters, the reason I am so anxious and so earnest that you should hear these first warnings that would stop you in your way of sin, and check your course in yielding to temptation, and turn you about to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, is that when this last summons shall come you shall be able to read it with peace. I went to see a man the other day who was sick unto death. The friends told me before I saw him that the doctor gave no hope. I went in and sat by his side, and I asked him if the Lord was with him in his sickness and gave him peace, and with a glad smile he said : " Oh, yes, all the time. I suppose I shall only last a few days at the longest, but it is all right; I have been getting ready for this for fifty years, and it is all right now." God grant that you may so live, may so hear the voice of Jesus calling you to follow him, and may follow him so closely that in that hour of hours he shall come to receive you in peace.
Let no poor, discouraged man or woman here to-night doubt for a single moment that Jesus is seeking for you just as definitely and as personally and with as much love as when he sought and found Philip. During the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Mr. Moody preached one Sunday morning to many thousands of people in a great tent from the text, " The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" After he had finished, a little boy with handsome face and form was brought to the platform by an officer, who said he had found him wandering in the crowd, evidently lost. Mr. Moody took the little fellow in his arms, and, standing before the great throng, asked the people to look at the lost child.
" This boy has a father who is no doubt at this moment looking for him with anxious heart," said the preacher. " The father is more anxious to find his boy than his boy is to be found. t is just so with our Heavenly Father. He is seeking us to-day : seeking us with unspeakable solicitude. For long years he has been following you, O sinner ! He is following you still. He is calling to you today."
At this instant a man with blanched face and excited eye was seen elbowing his way toward the platform. As he drew near the little boy saw him, and, running quickly over the platform, threw himself with a bound into his father's out-stretched arms. The multitude witnessed the scene with breathless attention, and then broke out into a mighty cheer, while nearly every face in the audience was wet with tears.
"Thus," cried Mr. Moody, "will God receive you if you will only run to him today. `The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.' "
The same seeking Savior is here tonight, seeking for you. Do not turn away from him. Do not harden your heart against him. But rise up at once and follow him out of your doubt, and your sin, and your hopeless struggle, into peace and joy and everlasting life.