James Smith, 1865
"I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you are converted, strengthen your brethren." Luke 22:32 (KJV)
"But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:32 (NLT)
The interest which Jesus takes in his people, is intense. Here it is manifest that his eye, his heart, and his voice — were engaged for Peter; though He knew how basely Peter would deny Him. Satan was plotting against the Apostles, he desired to have them to sift them as wheat — but the eye of Jesus watched the fiend, read the very thoughts of his heart, and determined to frustrate him. His eye affected his heart, and He deeply sympathized with his disciples, especially with Peter, whose weakness and folly He knew. His voice was heard before the Father's throne, that Peter's faith might not fail.
What a mercy for us that the eye of Jesus watches
all our enemies; his ear listens to all their purposes, plans, and
designs; his heart beats with unutterable love and tender compassion
for us, and He intercedes for us before his Father and our Father,
his God and our God. He knew Peter would be recovered, and therefore He
directs him what to do after he was restored. He was to turn his
shameful fall to account, and to sympathize more deeply with his
brethren, watch over them more tenderly, and tend them more wisely. "When
you are converted, strengthen your brethren." Here see:
First, what we NEED: to be renewed — that is, turned back to Christ. We can only be regenerated once; we may be renewed (turned back to Christ) often.
The life communicated at the new birth is immortal and divine; it never dies; conversion is the effect of that life, and the evidence of its power. Conversion is a turning to God. We hear his voice, we feel his power, and we turn from self — to Jesus, from law — to gospel, from sin — to holiness, from the world — to the church. But we often BACKSLIDE, wander, and grow cold; then we need afresh, the putting forth of the Divine power within us, to bring us back to God.
Surely the church needs to be renewed to Christ now. May the Lord confer this blessing upon us. A turning back to Christ, will produce deeper convictions:
Deeper convictions of the sinfulness of our natures, the inconsistency of our lives, and our inexcusableness before God.
Deeper convictions of our danger by nature — as exposed to the just wrath of a sin-hating God, and of our danger now of falling into sin, folly, and mistakes.
Deeper convictions of the value of the soul — which must live while God lives, and either exist in endless torment — or unspeakable joy.
Deeper convictions of the value of the cross of
Jesus. That cross on which our sins were atoned for, where our peace was
made, and by which our old man is crucified. Precious cross, of a more
precious Savior! But for the cross — there would be . . .
no light in our mind,
no peace in our consciences,
no joy in our spirits,
no love in our hearts,
no hope in our souls!
No one prizes the cross of Jesus — like the re-converted soul.
A turning back to Christ — will produce sweeter enjoyments. We shall have sweeter enjoyment of peace with God; that peace which passes all understanding, and which is a foretaste of the rest that remains for the people of God. We shall more sweetly enjoy love to God, which will be rekindled and strengthened by the amazing love which brings us back from our wanderings, and nearer to our Father's bosom. We shall sweetly enjoy zeal for God, for we shall be all alive in His work, full of zeal for his glory, and anxious to extend his cause.
A turning back to Christ will produce great zeal. We shall be ready to do anything which God requires, or to go anywhere if God bids. Then we shall be ready to say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!" "Command, Lord, and your servant will obey."
A turning back to Christ will produce greater power in prayer. There will no longer be dull, lifeless, dronish prayers; but, with heart, energy, and determination, we shall go to God for blessings — like the man for the three loaves, taking no denial; we shall plead the promises, like the poor widow to the unjust judge, with the mind made up to prevail. Oh, for powerful prayer in God's church!
A turning back to Christ will produce greater pleasure in praise. We shall bless the Lord with all the heart, praise Him according to his excellent greatness, according to his unparalleled goodness. Praise will rise up naturally from the gratitude of the heart, flow forth in songs before the throne of God, which will be most pleasing to Him.
A turning back to Christ will produce greater enjoyment of the Word. We shall read it with new eyes, hear it with new ears, and feed upon it with new appetites. Its promises will sparkle before the eyes, its doctrines will be music in the ears, and its very precepts will be sweet as honey to the soul.
A turning back to Christ will produce greater attention to ordinances. We shall no longer deify them, or put them in the place of Christ; nor degrade them by trampling them under our feet. But we shall see their value, feel their importance, and enter into their design. The prayer-meeting, the weekly service, the Lord's supper — will be precious to us, and no trifle will be allowed to keep us from them.
Lord, renew your people! Renew my soul! Being
re-converted, we see —
Secondly, what we should DO, when once we are renewed— strengthen our brethren. We have brethren who are weak in faith. Most families have one or more weaklings in them — the Lord's family has many. These weaklings are apt to be overlooked, especially by those who are comparatively carnal, cold, and worldly. Oh, how many members of our churches neglect that command, "We that are strong — ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves."
But the renewed soul will pity, compassionate, and strengthen the weak in faith. Many are feeble in hope. They do not grasp the promises with a firm hand. They do not rest steadily on Jesus. They are not looking at unseen things, and for the coming of our beloved Lord; and, therefore they have more fear, than hope. These are weak, and need strengthening.
Some faint in the long and difficult way. The road is so rough. Their cross is so heavy. Their strength is so small. Their unbelief is so active. Satan is so busy. Professors are so careless in dealing with them, that they become weary and faint in their minds. They need cordials, and need them administered often. Oh, how many in the present day droop under their duties, and decline, being sick! These need to be led to the great Physician — to be watched over, cared for, and strengthened.
But one evidence that we need to be renewed is, "All seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ's." Whereas the command is, "Let no man seek his own — but every man another's welfare." Oh, for grace to look out for the weak, from love to Jesus; and to be daily endeavoring to strengthen them, for Jesus' sake!
We should strengthen them by testimony. Bearing our personal, experimental, heart-felt testimony — to the greatness, freeness, and power of God's love, as made known to our souls by the teachings of the Holy Spirit.
Telling them of his wondrous faithfulness, which never falters, never fails; but remains like the sun, which is "a faithful witness in heaven;" like the rock, which defies the tempest and the storm.
Speaking of his divine power, which, like the shepherd's arms, gathers the lambs to lay them in his bosom, or is stretched out to repulse and drive back the foe; or like a powerful garrison, which preserves the city from the invading enemy; that mighty power by which we are preserved through faith unto complete salvation.
Testifying to them of Jesus. Of the manner in
which He . . .
communicates blessings to them;
restores them as wandering sheep to his fold;
employs them again, though runaway servants;
and makes them happy in his own precious love.
How much there is in Jesus — to strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees! It is by setting Jesus before our weak and feeble brethren — that we shall be able to strengthen them as our Lord directs.
To testimony we should add prayer. Prayer with them, and prayer for them.
To prayer, we should add example — a holy, loving, lamb-like example. Preaching Christ to them by what we do — as much as by what we say.
But some may read these lines who have never been converted at all. My friend, your case is sad, for Jesus says, "Unless you are converted, you shall never enter into the kingdom of heaven." Peter speaks to such as you when he says, "Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." May God give you the grace to turn to Him without delay!
Some may read them who were converted, and were lively, happy, and active in God's ways; but now they are backslidden — cold, worldly, and unspiritual. Does such a one's eye now rest upon this page? My dear friend, let me beseech you to hear God speak. He places Himself before you. He seems to put Himself at your bar. He says in the most pathetic language, "Oh, my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Testify Against Me!" What has He done — that will justify your conduct? What charge can you bring against Him? Hear Him again: "Have I been a wilderness unto Israel, a land of drought?" Why do you neglect the closet, the Bible, the sanctuary, the work which God has set you to do?
But some happy, renewed soul may read them. My brother, my sister, I rejoice with you. God has shown you great mercy. Jesus has manifested wonderful love. Realize and exercise your thoughts upon the greatness of the mercy manifested — then you will perceive that your obligations are greatly increased, and feel it to be your imperative duty to do as Jesus commanded Peter, "Strengthen your brethren."
Beloved, the great thing we need is power; the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring us back from all our wanderings — to the feet of Jesus; to fill us with zeal for his glory; to consecrate us afresh to his service; and make us useful and happy in his ways. As it is, we sow much — and reap little; we work hard — and witness few results; we employ many means — to comparatively little purpose. How many sermons are preached — and not one soul converted! How many churches decline — rather than increase and grow! What skeletons of Christians many of us are! Truly, many of us resemble the seven lean cows of Pharaoh — we eat up all, and are none the better for it! May God in his infinite mercy pour out his Spirit, renew us one by one, until we all become full "of goodness, able also to admonish one another."