By Harry Ironside
I want to draw your attention to the blessedness of being transfigured by beholding the face of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was the sight of His face that won our poor, wayward souls in the beginning when we were going on in our sins. And then we met Him, and we looked upon Him, and we realized He was the eternal Lover of our souls who had given Himself for us, and our hearts were won, and we were saved. We know something of what John Newton meant in that fine old hymn that told his own experience.
In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object met my sight,
And stayed my wild career.
I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood,
Who fixed His dying eyes on me,
As near the Cross I stood.
Sure, never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look,
It seemed to charge me with His death, Though not a word He spoke.
My conscience felt and owned my guilt, And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.
But a second look He gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive,
This blood has for thy ransom paid,
I die that thou mayst live.”
(John Newton, 1803)
We fell in love with Him forever. We had seen Him bleeding, suffering, dying for us, and we were won by Divine grace.
Then we have been noticing that if we would grow in grace and in holiness of life, it can only be as we all, “beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed [transfigured] into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). And, of course, that holiness will never be absolutely perfected until we see Him as He is.
In this passage, the apostle John dwells upon the present blessing “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1). It is not just that we are hoping to be, but we are here and now, we who have trusted our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not” (v. 1). We need never expect the world’s approbation if we are living for God. And if we are not living for Him, and yet call ourselves Christians, we will only have the world’s contempt, because even the ungodly know what a Christian ought to be; and if they see us professing to be Christians yet not living consistently, they will only despise us and look upon us as hypocrites. On the other hand, if we are living for God, we cannot expect their approval. “The world knoweth us not.” Oh, what a luxury it is to give up even a little for Jesus when He gave up so much for us. He left Heaven’s glory for us. He gave all that He had to redeem us. And, surely, it is a little thing that we should give up the world for His sake. With all our hearts, we cry:
Take the world, but give me Jesus,
All earth’s joys are but in name,
But His love abideth ever,
Through eternal years the same.
(Frances Crosby, 1879)
It is a great thing to be able to say we know, we know we are the sons of God. We know we have passed from death unto life. We know our sins are forgiven. We know we have life eternal.
Do you love to think of the near coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? I do not know how you feel about it, but to me, sometimes, I just hold my breath these days; it seems to me, I can already hear the coming of His feet.
Have you ever noticed how the Blessed Hope is presented in the first epistle to the Thessalonians? In every one of its five wonderful chapters, we have some very definite reference to that hope. In the first chapter, it is connected with conversion. The apostle says, “Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). Two things are linked up together—serving and waiting. Do not talk about waiting for the coming of the Lord if you are not serving faithfully. There are people who talk about the coming of the Lord, and they are living carnal lives, they are living for self and for the world. No, no, you cannot really be waiting for God’s Son from Heaven if you are not seeking to live for His glory. Service is connected with the hope of His return.
My mother was left a widow when I was about two years of age, and I had a younger brother only three weeks old. Mother had a difficult time caring for two little children for a number of years. I went out to work when I was old enough to do anything. We lived in Los Angeles after we left Canada where I was born. One time during school vacation, I went to work with a cobbler named Dan Mackay, an Orkney man. He had a little shop, and it was papered most beautifully. Instead of any fancy paper, he had a lot of old-fashioned Bible almanacs pasted up, and there were big bright texts and people who came into that shop would find the Gospel message facing them. He would put a Gospel tract in every parcel that he made up; and he would speak to nearly all his customers about their souls. He was a preacher of the Word seated there at his cobbler’s bench. I went to work for him. I must have been rather a lazy boy. I had a kind of iron across my knees. He would soak a pair of soles in water, and with a flat hammer I had to hammer all the water out of those soles until they got hard and solid, and then he would nail them on the shoes. I used to get very tired hammering those soles hour after hour.
On my way home, I had to pass another shoe shop, and I could see the cobbler there cut a pair of soles, soak them in water, and put them right on the shoes without hammering them at all; and every time he drove a nail into them, the water would fly all over the place. That interested me very much. I said to him, “You know, my boss makes me hammer all the water out of the soles, but you put them right on damp and soft when you get them out of the water.”
The man gave me a very sly wink, and said, “They come back all the quicker this way, my boy!”
I thought I had learned something, so I went back to my boss, and I said, “Look here, I do not know why you make me hammer these soles. The man in the other shop does not do that, and he says they come back all the quicker, and he gets more jobs.
My boss took out his Bible and read, “Whatsoever ye do in word or in deed, do all to the glory of God.” Then he said “Harry, perhaps I have been a little thoughtless. I have forgotten that you are just a lad of twelve years of age, and it is tiresome work hammering all day. I shall do some of them myself, and I will teach you to do something else to rest you between times. But I will not allow anything to go out of my shop that is not well done. It is different with me than it is with the other man. That man is not saved. He does not know the Lord, but I do. I would love to be a preacher of the Gospel, but God has not gifted me in that way, but He has shown me how to cobble shoes, and He has put me right here to glorify Him. You know, when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again, and I stand at His Judgment Seat, I expect to find every shoe that ever went out of my shop in a big pile there; and the Lord will take them and look over them, and I expect Him to examine them very carefully, and I do not want Him to say to me, ‘I am sorry you let them go like this; I cannot give you a reward for them.’ I want Him to be able to look over all my work and to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”
Do you wonder that a man like that had power in his testimony? People often came back to him and said, “Mr. Mackay, when you fixed for me that pair of soles, I found a Gospel tract in the parcel when I got home, and I have been reading it. Could you tell me how I could be sure of salvation? And he would drop everything, and that cobbler’s shop would become a sanctuary. He would lead them to Christ, showing them the way of life from the Word. He had a real testimony for God. He was serving the living and true God and waiting for His Son from Heaven. When you speak of service, do not always think of preaching and missionary endeavor. Anything that is worth doing at all can be done for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to serve in view of His appearing.
Naught that I have, my own I call, I hold it for the Giver,
My heart, my strength, my life, my all,
Are His, and His for ever.
(James Grindlay Small, 1866)
(An extract of Harry Ironside’s book, Changed by Beholding – public domain). Photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)