And what shall this man do?

by Phillip Wareham

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This of course was the question Peter asked the Lord regarding John. The Lord basically told Peter to mind his own business, not to worry too much about what John was going to do, but rather to first make sure that he himself was following. So then, that is our first priority to make sure that we individually, and our families, are following the Lord, regardless of who else does or does not. As Joshua testified to the children of Israel, 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.' (Joshua 24:15) Sometimes, dear fellow saint, it may also come down to just saying 'as for me, I will serve the Lord.' So what shall I do then to be ready for the heavenly bridegroom? The little word 'do' is a very important word in the bible. It can also be a very dangerous word. It is important because what we truly believe in our heart is seen in what we say and what we do. Or as James put it: 'I will show thee my faith by my works.' (James 2:18) As we concluded in the last chapter, it will not be what I profess, nor my knowledge of the scriptures, nor my understanding of the Lord's will, but what I do, that will count in the day of the Lord. As we before noted, Jesus was so strong on this point, and challenged those in Israel (and, by extension, us) 'Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.' (Matthew 7:21) He then told the story of the wise man and the foolish man, building their two houses. 'Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.' (Matthew 7:24 - 25) And the foolish man who heard, but did not, when the storms came, his house was destroyed.

So we have come down to a wise virgin and a foolish virgin, and a wise steward and a foolish steward, and, now, a wise man and a foolish man. A wise virgin who was willing to pay the price, a wise steward who was willing to feed his household, and now a wise man who was willing to do what Jesus taught him. They are the ones who will be ready for their heavenly bridegroom. They are the ones who have true joy, as Jesus told his disciples, 'If ye know these things happy are ye if ye do them.' (John 13:17)

As we said before, the word 'do' can also be a very dangerous word, because as soon as I hear it I am tempted to immediately run out and 'do' something for the Lord. And that would be a big mistake. Jesus said so clearly, 'without me you can do nothing.'(John 15:5) Now that puts us right in our place. He does not say that without him we could not really do very much at all. He says we can do nothing. Now I can go out and do all sorts of things by myself, but nothing of eternal value in the kingdom of God. All would be wood, hay and stubble to be burnt up. All would be waste. No, we have to get right back to basics, to have that 'simplicity in Christ.' (2 Corinthians 11:3) Remember the question the jailer asked the apostles in Acts chapter sixteen, 'Sirs what must I do to be saved?' (Acts 16:30) And the answer from Paul and Silas, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.' (Acts 16:31) To believe, to fully trust in, to fully surrender to, the Lord Jesus Christ. To fully disbelieve in myself, to know from the bottom of my heart, that 'in me dwelleth no good thing.' (Romans 7:18) There is nothing for me to 'do,' not one thing, Christ has done it all. And Paul himself when he was converted on the Damascus road, asked the Lord 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' (Acts 9:6) For three days he could do nothing, for he remained blinded by the shining light. He simply waited, appalled by his own spiritual blindness and enthralled by the mercy and grace of Jesus to the 'chief of sinners.' Then it was told him what he must do.

And how do we go on from that point? The Lord was asked at one time, 'What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?' Jesus answered and said unto them, 'this is the work of God that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.' (John 6:28 - 29) Nothing different, just believe. Sounds too easy? Well, Jesus said it was easy. First he says to us 'Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.' (Matthew 11:28) The wonderful rest and peace of our burdens lifted at the cross. All my sins washed away in his precious blood never to be remembered against me anymore. But then comes the further invitation to us, 'Take my yoke upon you and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.' (Matthew 11:29 - 30) He says his yoke is easy. The hard part for us, who are unaccustomed to the yoke, is to put our head down and be yoked together with him. We kick against the pricks, and it hurts. But when we just learn to yield to him in all points of our life, when we 'cease from our own works as God did from his,' (Hebrews 4:10) we begin to learn of him and find that his yoke truly is easy, and his burden truly is light. In the words of the hymn writer 'They who trust him wholly, find him wholly true.' ('Like a river Glorious' by Frances Havegal)

And this is a daily thing. This yielding, this trusting, this learning. It is not something we come to once or twice and then go onto something else. It is in our daily walk with him that he reveals himself more to us, that we can prove his faithfulness, that we can grow to be more like him. It is in this daily walk that we can be prepared to meet our heavenly bridegroom. This, I believe is the meaning behind the words in the Revelation, 'his wife has made herself ready.' (Revelation 19:7) We can pray to the Father, 'give us this day our daily bread,' (Matthew 6:11) and Paul could say 'I die daily.' (1 Corinthians 15:31) That is, die to all that was of Paul, of the old man, what he could do in his own strength.

The Lord does not then just leave us at the starting line saying: 'without me you can do nothing,' but leads us on to where we can join Paul in his confident declaration: 'I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.' (Philippians 4:13) Now what are these 'all things' Paul is talking about? Well, primarily they are the ordinary things that all of us have to do, and do them daily. (If the reader could please now just put this book down for a minute, and read from Colossians chapter three, verse twelve to the end of the chapter, as I want to just share a few things from this passage of scripture.) The question was asked earlier as to what shall I do then to be ready for the heavenly bridegroom. Well, here in Colossians chapter three are a few things to do. Forbearing and forgiving one another, being thankful, (giving thanks in all things) and fellowshipping with one another in the word and songs. Sounds easy? Without abiding in Christ it is impossible.

To have fellowship in the word with our fellow saints implies that I myself am feeding upon the word. Reading the word, having my quiet time with the Lord, and fellowshipping with the saints should never be a burden, or a chore, or a matter of duty, but rather a joy. If it is a duty then it is me doing it, and it shall soon dry up. So then if I don't do it I will come under condemnation for not doing my duty (and try to bring others into the same.) If I do it then I can congratulate myself and be very proud of my achievement and attendance record. Either way is a barren and dull existence. No, dear saint of God, never let us lose that sense of thrill to come into the Lord's presence to hear his voice, to laugh and sing aloud for joy, to receive some precious portion from his word. And it is daily. David said, that to him, the word of the Lord was 'sweeter than honey,' (Psalm 19:10) and therefore something to be eaten and enjoyed. A good test to see if it is so with us is to go away on holidays with family or friends. Then just open the bible for a short time of family prayers in the morning to start the day. The response? 'O come on, I thought we were on holidays. Do we still have to do that? Give us a break.' You see, it's not a delight, it's a chore, and the Lord feels it. He does not feel welcome. If we are like that, then I don't believe we will be ready for his coming. You see, we would not really be happy to be 24/7 with the Lord. May the Lord enlarge our hearts to delight in him, to include him, and welcome him in all that we do, and so prepare our hearts to be caught up to meet him and so be 'forever with the Lord.' (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

Now coming back to our portion in Colossians chapter three, and looking at doing all things through Christ. The simple injunction to us is: 'and whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.' (Colossians 3:17) And the things to do? Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands (and give thanks to God for them.) Husbands love your wives (and give thanks to God for them.) Children obey your parents in all things (and give thanks to God for them.) Fathers don't provoke your children to wrath by being too harsh or legal (and give thanks to God for your children.) Lastly, servants obey in all things your masters (and give thanks to God for the employment you have.) Sounds easy? I repeat, without abiding in, and leaning on Christ, it is impossible.

So these are very practical and 'down to earth' things to do, just like John the Baptist told those who came to him, as he prepared the way for the Lord's first coming. Just like us, they asked, 'What shall we do then?' (Luke 3:10) John's reply: 'he that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise,' and to the publicans 'exact no more than that which is appointed you,' and to the soldiers and policemen, ' Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely: and be content with your wages.' (Luke 3:11-14) Now the Holy Spirit applies those exact same principles to us, as we ,in our day, await our Lord's return. So I think we have got to the point now where we realise it is not just getting excited, or enthused, or whipped up by some gifted preacher (though the Lord will use whom he will to exhort and edify the saints.) It goes much deeper than that. It goes to the very heart of our daily lives in our homes, in our work, and in our schools, and touches all our human relationships. It is always a heart matter with the Lord, as Paul goes on to say in Colossians chapter three, 'and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men.' (Colossians 3:23)

This is why I believe the Lord chose every day, even mundane illustrations of those who would be ready, of those who would be caught up. In Luke's gospel chapter seventeen, Jesus tells of three groups of people: 'I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed: the one shall be taken and the other left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.' (Luke 17:34-36) We have seen earlier in chapter seven that Jesus could only have been speaking of three groups of disciples here, and the first thing we note is a very practical one. That is, when the Lord does come, it will be daytime in some parts of the earth and in other parts it will be nighttime. So some will be awake and some will be asleep. Secondly, we note that these people are quite ordinary. Just like us. I have heard some say that when the Lord comes they want to be on their knees praying or leading someone to Christ. Now this is quite an admirable desire, and I would not discourage that, but also quite unnecessary in relation to our readiness for the Lord's return. It is not doing some great work for the Lord, but simply doing what he has given us to do, whether on our knees praying, or leading a soul to Christ, or whether it is working in the field, grinding at the mill, or something quite as ordinary as sleeping. The third thing we note is that these groups of people were very close to each other, either family members or close friends. They knew each other well and were doing exactly the same thing, sleeping, labouring or grinding.

The fourth thing we cannot help but note is that 'One shall be taken and the other left.' Why? Because one was living by faith, and the other was not. Outwardly doing the same thing, but the Lord 'Looketh on the heart,' (1 Samuel 16:7) and says, 'I the Lord search the heart; I try the reigns, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doing.'(Jeremiah 17:10) One was joyfully serving 'as unto the Lord.' The other, perhaps complaining and criticising in the heart, resentful, or maybe even envious of the other. Beware of a Martha type spirit entering into our service. The very moment we detect it in our own hearts, be ruthless in dealing with it. Lift your heart to our gracious Lord and thank him for the great privilege to serve him and his saints. Then with joy and peace go back to serving. Only such service is acceptable to the Lord.

On the other hand the service might be just to get the acclaim or the glory of men and the Lord simply says of such, 'Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.' (Matthew 6:2) But they miss out on the eternal reward. And when we go to sleep at night, how do we sleep? In the midst of great trouble, David could say 'I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.' (Psalm 3:5) And again in the next psalm, 'I will both lay me down in peace and sleep: for thou Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.' (Psalm 4:8) So even our sleep is a matter of faith and trust in him.

So one was taken and the other left. And the disciples naturally wanted to know where the one would be taken to. Jesus simply answered: 'Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.' (Luke 17:37) We read about eagles in the book of Job. They make their nest on high, 'dwell and abide on the rock,' 'her eyes behold afar off' and 'she feeds on the flesh and blood of the slain lamb.' (Job 39:27-30) So, those who are taken, 'sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,' (Ephesians 2:6) stand safe and secure on Christ the solid rock, by faith 'See Jesus' crowned with glory and honour,'(Hebrews 2:9) feed on the eternal word of God, and keep their conscience clear through a strong confidence in the precious blood of Christ. These are the things to do. We need then firstly to take heed to ourselves, and then watch out for our brothers and sisters. Not being a busybody and not fault finding, but rather in a spirit of meekness to care for and pray for our fellow believers. 'By love serve one another.' (Galatians 5:13) Because we love the brethren we want them to be ready for the heavenly bridegroom and to have a full reward. Not lording it over the flock, but coming alongside, as Paul beautifully put it: 'not that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.' (2 Corinthians 1:24)

I have often observed that if we give ourselves to serving the need of the saints, or as some were 'addicted to the ministry of the saints,' (1 Corinthians 16:15) then the Lord sees to our needs both spiritually and materially. The Lord is no man's debtor. Maybe, then if we are working in the field with our brother, or grinding at the mill with our sister, we might take the opportunity to pray for them and show kindness to them, and in some way encourage them with the eternal things of the kingdom of God. Then, maybe two will be taken, and none left! How wonderful that would be. And then we could join Paul in saying, 'For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?' (1 Thessalonians 2:19)

'So let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter.' (Ecclesiastes 12:13) When we get to the end of the bible, after reading of the rise of the antichrist, the persecution against the saints, and the awful judgments God will bring upon this earth, we might be tempted to faint. Then we get to the last verse and read: 'The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, be with you all. Amen.' (Revelation 22:21) It is grace that has saved us and his abundant, all sufficient grace will see us through. On our part it is: 'faith which worketh by love,' (Galatians 5:6) and on his part: 'Grace, grace unto it.' (Zechariah 4:7) So then, having done those things he has put before us, by his grace, all that is left for us to do is join with the twenty four elders who, 'fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne saying, Thou art worthy O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.' (Revelation 4:10 - 11)