You cannot have Christ if you will not serve Him. If you take Christ, you must take Him in all His characters, not only as Friend, but also as Master; and if you are to become His disciple, you must also become His servant. I hope that no one kicks against that truth. Surely it is one of our highest delights on earth to serve our Lord, and this is to be our blessed employment even in heaven itself: "His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face."
This thought also enters into our idea of salvation; to be saved, means that we are rescued from the slavery of sin, and brought into the delightful liberty of the servants of God. O Master, Thou art such a glorious Lord that serving Thee is perfect freedom, and sweetest rest! Thou hast told us that it should be so, and we have found it so. "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." We do find it so; and it is not as though rest were a separate thing from service, the very service itself becomes rest to our souls. I know not how some of us would have any rest on earth if we could not employ our daily lives in the service of Christ; and the rest of heaven is never to be pictured as idleness, but as constantly being permitted the high privilege of serving the Lord.
Learn hence, then, all of you who would have Christ as your Saviour, that you must be willing to serve Him. We are not saved by service, but we are saved to service. When we are once saved, thenceforward we live in the service of our Lord. If we refuse to be His servants, we are not saved, for we still remain evidently the servants of self, and the servants of Satan. Holiness is another name for salvation; to be delivered from the power of self-will, and the domination of evil lusts, and the tyranny of Satan,—this is salvation. Those who would be saved must know that they will have to serve Christ, and those who are saved rejoice that they are serving Him, and that thus they are giving evidence of a change of heart and renewal of mind.
So you are proposing to yourself that you will serve Christ, are you? You are a young man, as yet you have plenty of vigour and strength, and you say to yourself, "I will serve Christ in some remarkable way; I will seek to make myself a scholar, I will try to learn the art of oratory, and I will in some way or other glorify my Lord's name by the splendour of my language." Will you, dear friend? Is it not better, if you are going to serve Christ, to ask Him what He would like you to do? If you wished to do a kindness for a friend, you certainly would desire to know what would best please that friend, or else your kindness might be mistaken, and you might be doing that which would grieve rather than gratify. Now listen. Your Lord and Master does not bid you become either a scholar or an orator in order to serve Him. Both of those things may happen to fall to your lot in that path of duty which He would have you to take; but first of all He says, "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me."
This is what Christ prefers beyond anything else, that His servants should follow Him. If we do that, we shall serve Him in the way which is according to His own choice. I notice that many good friends desire to serve Christ by standing on the top round of the ladder. You cannot get there at one step, young man; your better way will be to serve Christ by following Him, by "doing the next thing," the thing you can do, that little simple business which lies within your capacity, which will bring you no special honour, but which, nevertheless, is what your Lord desires of you. In effect, you can hear Him say to you, "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me, not by aiming at great things, but by doing just that piece of work that I put before him at the time." "Seekest thou great things for thyself?" said the prophet Jeremiah to Baruch, "seek them not." So say I to you.
One friend, perhaps, blessed with great riches, is saying, "I will lay by in store until I acquire a considerable amount, and then build a row of almshouses for the poor; I will give very largely to some new foreign missionary effort, or I will build a house of prayer in which Christ's name shall be preached." God forbid that I should stop you in any right design whatever! Still, if you would do what is absolutely certain to please Christ, I would not recommend the selection of any one particular object, but I would advise you just to do this,—follow Him, remembering that He said, "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me." You will, by simply going behind your Master, following His footsteps, and being truly His disciple, do that which would please Him more than if you could endow His cause with a whole mint of riches. This is what He selects as. the choicest proof of your love, the highest testimonial of your regard: "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me."
He requires of you that you should become as a little child, that you may be taught by Him. His own words are, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." If you would be a servant of Christ, come to Him as a little child; sit on the infants' form, to be taught by Him the gospel A B C. "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me,—follow Me as My disciple, regarding Me as his Teacher, to whom he bows his understanding and his entire mind, that I may fashion it according to My own will." This is the language of our Lord, and I would impress it very earnestly upon you all, and especially upon any who are beginning the Christian life. If you are to serve Christ, put your mind like a tablet of wax under His stylus, that He may write on you whatsoever He pleases. Be you Christ's slate, that He may make His mark on you. Be His sheet of paper, on which He may write His living letters of love. You can serve Him in this way in the best possible manner.
"Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it." If you want truly to serve Christ, do not do what you suggest to yourself, but do what He commands you. Remember what Samuel said to Saul, "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." I believe that the profession of consecration to God, when it is accompanied by action that I suggest to myself, may be nothing but will-worship, an abomination in the sight of God; but when anyone says to the Lord, "What wilt Thou have me to do? Show me, my Master, what Thou wouldst have me to do,"—when there is a real desire to obey every command of Christ, then is there the true spirit of service, and the true spirit of sonship. "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me, running at My call, following at My heels, waiting at My feet to do whatsoever I desire him to do." This makes life a very much simpler thing than some dream it to be. You are not to go and carve a statue out of the marble by the exercise of your own genius; if that were the task set before us, the most of us would never accomplish it. But you have just to go and write according to Christ's own example, to copy His letters, the upstrokes and the downstrokes, and to write exactly as He has written. The other day, I was asked to sign my name to a deed, and when it was handed to me, I said, "Why, I have signed my name!" "Yes," said the one who brought it, "you have the very easy task of marking it all over again." Just so, in that case I followed my own writing; and you have the easy task of writing after Christ, blacking over again the letters that He Himself has made, and you cannot do Him better service than this. "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; that is, let him do just what I bid him to do; follow Me by imitating My example." It is always safe to do what Christ would have done under the same circumstances in which you are placed. Of course, you cannot imitate Christ in His miraculous work, and you are not asked to imitate Him in some of those sorrowful respects in which He suffered that we might not suffer; but the ordinary life of Christ is in every respect an example to us. Never do what you could not suppose Christ would have done. If it strikes you that the course of action that is suggested to you would be un-Christly, then it is un-Christian, for the Christian is to be like Christ. The Christian is to be the flower growing out of the seed, Christ; and there is always a congruity between the flower and the seed out of which it grows. Keep your eyes fixed on your heavenly model, and pattern, and seek in all things ever to imitate Christ. If you want to serve Christ, repeat His life as nearly as possible in your own life. "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me by copying My example."
You do not need to run away from your father and mother, and leave your home and friends, and go away to the blacks in Africa, in order to serve Christ. It is not the getting of some idle speculation in your own brain, and working that out according to your own whims and fancies, that constitutes service for Christ; it is just simply this,—if any man will serve Christ, let him follow Christ. Let him put his foot down as nearly as he can where Christ put His foot down; let him tread in Christ's steps, and be moved by His spirit, actuated by His motives, live with His aim, and copy His actions. This is the noblest way in which to serve the Lord.
"If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be." I do not know any other master but Christ who ever said that. There are some places where an earthly master does not want his servant to be; he must have some room to himself, and some engagements which he cannot explain to his servant, and into which his servant must not pry. But the Lord Jesus Christ makes this the glorious privilege of everyone who enters His service that, where He is, there shall His servant be.
But where is Christ? He is and always was in the place of communion with God. He was always near to His Father. He often spoke with God. He ever had the joy of God filling His spirit. And you, perhaps, are saying to yourself, "I wish that I had communion with God." Well, through Jesus Christ, it is to be had by serving Him in that particular kind of service which consists in following Him. If you want to walk with God, why, of course, you must walk! If you sit down in idleness, you cannot walk with Him; and if you do not keep up a good brisk pace, He will walk on in front of you, and leave you behind, for the Lord is no laggard in His walking. Therefore, you see, there must be diligent progress, and activity in service, in order that we may keep pace with Him, and have communion with Him; and if we act thus here, He has promised that we shall be in the place of communion with our blessed Master.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was in the place of confidence. Whenever Christ went to work, He worked with assurance. He never had a doubt as to His ultimate success. No haphazard work ever came from Christ's hands. He spoke with certainty, and He worked with the full assurance that His labour would not be in vain. If you want to have confidence in your work for Christ, so as to perform it without any doubts and fears, you will have to obtain it by serving Him, and to serve Him by following Him; and then, into that hallowed place of confidence where your Master always stood, there shall you also come.
It is very sweet to notice how the Lord Jesus brings His Father into His speech; it is as if He said, "When a man joins himself to Me, then he joins himself to My Father also. It is not only I who will love him, and do My best to honour him, but My Father, the great and ever-blessed Lord over all, keeps an eye on that man." On whom does He look with this gaze of approval? Not on those who have some grand project of serving themselves, but on those who serve Christ, and who do it by following Him.
It is delightful to have a sense of the approbation of God, such as you never had when you had the approbation of men. Sometimes, when even Christian people cry, "Well done, well done," the Lord says, "That is quite enough praise for him; I shall not give him My 'Well done.' "But when you get no "Well done" from men, but, on the contrary, are misunderstood and misrepresented, then the Lord comes and puts His hand upon you, and says, "Be strong, fear not, I have accepted your service. I know your motive, and I approve your action. Be not afraid of them, but go on your way." Such approval as that is the highest honour we can have here. "If any man serve Me," says Christ, "him will My Father honour," with a sense of sonship, and with a sense of approbation.
If a man will serve Christ by following Him, the Father will give him honour in the eyes of the blood-bought family. There are certain of the Lord's people who do not carry yard measures with them, but they carry scales and weights, and if they do not measure by quantity, they measure by quality; their approval is worth having. They are often the poorest and most afflicted members of the church; but being the most instructed, and living the nearest to God, to be had in honour of them is a thing worth having. I believe that, if any man will lead the life of a Christian, however few his talents, and if his service lies in close obedience and imitation of Christ, the real saints, not the mere professors, especially not the shining worldly ones among them, but real saints will say, "That is the man for us; that is the woman with whom we like to converse." Thus it comes to pass that those who really do serve the Lord by following Him have honour in the estimation of those who sit at meat with them at their Lord's table.
And then, when we come to die, or when we stand at the judgment seat of Christ, or when we enter upon the eternal state, what a glorious thing it will be, to find the Father ready to honour us for ever because we served the Son! Our reward will not be of debt, but of grace; it is grace that gave us the service, and grace that will reward us for our service; but no man and no woman shall serve the Lord Jesus Christ here on earth by following Him, without finding that the Father has some special honour, some rich and rare reward, to give to such soldiers in due time. This is the fighting day, expect nothing now but bullets, bruises, wounds, scars; but the battle will soon be over, and when the war is ended, the King will come, and ride up and down the ranks, and in that day you who have been most battered and most wounded in the battle shall find Him pause when He reaches you, and He will fasten on your breast a star that shall be more honour to you than all the Victoria Crosses that have decorated brave men here below. Stars and garters they may have who want them, but blessed are they who shall shine as the stars in the kingdom of our Father! And this honour is to be had by that believer who will faithfully serve his Lord; not by any who merely talk about it, or dream of it, or propose to do it, but to those who serve Him by following Him this honour shall be given.