Monthly Archives: August 2022

A Loving Warning

As is my wont, I was reading in my Bible recently and came across this verse in 2 John:

Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

I read that and continued reading… till I was suddenly arrested with the awareness that God was speaking to me. I turned back and read it again.

Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

I knew what this word of warning from the Lord my keeper was about. I’m 75 now. On the home stretch. Not much time left. It’s ironic, then, that being more or less a shut-in, I find myself with a lot of time on my hands.

I remember from years ago a man who used to come up from the U.S. to Canada from time to time and minister in our midst. He was an older man who had retired from his job and now had time to travel, and one time he told us that when he retired he knew he faced a temptation, and had earnestly prayed, “Lord, keep me from pottering around the house.” Translated into my own life and circumstances, and heeding the word of my Lord to me, my own earnest watchcare and prayer is, “Lord, keep me from pottering around the internet.” I must continue to be vigilant, alert, lest, so close to the finish line, I am stumbled, and lose out on the reward of the things I have wrought. So I am thankful for my Lord’s loving warning, which resulted in some earnest heart searching.

I’m thankful for the internet—the wealth of spiritual help it has opened up, the wealth of friends I’ve made but never met face to face apart from Zoom gatherings. But the internet has its deadly dangers. You may not even be looking for it when suddenly pornography is right in your face. One must ever be on the alert. It’s the second look that takes the bait and catches the foot in the snare. One of my friends has told the story not once or twice of something he saw years ago in a National Geographic presentation. It showed a large snake lying as still as a stick, and a little chipmunk scampering back and forth along it, each time getting closer and closer to its jaws… when suddenly the snake pounced and that was the end of the chipmunk. Let us beware, brethren, of the peril in seeing how close we can get to the jaws of a snake without being caught and consumed.

But, while not outright pornography, there are countless things seemingly harmless on the internet that invite viewing and serve no other purpose than to rob us of our precious time. It’s this that the Lord was speaking to me about. And I don’t want to forget that Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” (Jn 10:10). I don’t want to forget the order there—the end that the Thief has in mind when he is robbing me of my time while I am contentedly frittering away the precious minutes of my mortal life on things that do not profit the Lord or His people, or myself. Especially when in my old age the grains of sand in the glass are about run out.

George Fox of the early Friends warned that the young people were “going into the world.” An ever-present peril in our day as well. He also warned that the old people were “going into the earth.” They weren’t going on with Christ, they were in idle. In their old age they were contenting themselves with earthly things, unaware they were gradually losing the bloom known only by those who are in continual communion with the living Christ.

As I was considering these things a passage from Hosea came to mind:

Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.
Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not. (Hos 7:8,9)

Strangers have devoured his strength… Is not this what happened to the mighty Samson? What was his strength but his nazarite vow of holiness? Yet here he is intermingling himself with the unholy… and the next thing, he is in chains and his eyes are put out and he is grinding grain for the Philistines. We are told that he “wist not [was not aware] that the LORD had departed from him.” That took place suddenly. But how he got there didn’t happen in a moment. It was so gradual that he wasn’t aware he was in serious trouble.

That, apparently, is what happened to Ephraim. Something was gradually happening to him, and he wasn’t aware of it. He was mingling with the unholy, and they devoured his strength. And he didn’t know it. He was getting weak, and didn’t know it.

He was growing old… and didn’t know it. “Ephraim… gray hairs are here and there upon him, and he knoweth it not.” Gray hairs… oldness. But Hosea, how can anyone prevent aging? But this is the voice of prophecy speaking of those who would come to know the new birth in Christ, in whom we may have the ever-youthful raven-black hair of the beloved in the Song of Solomon. What’s that about? Surely it speaks of a new way of thinking, a mind in which there is nothing of the old man, but rather knows a continual renewing, the inner man being renewed day by day in spite of the outer man going the way of all the earth.

And so, Allan, there is no excuse for growing old when you grow old, as happened to Ephraim, unawares to himself. Where was his watchfulness? “Ephraim is a cake not turned.” Overdone on one side, underdone on the other. One side hard, the other side doughy. Hardly the fragrant bread of God’s table. How could this happen if the baker were attentive to the baking? The whole picture is one of a failure of daily watchfulness to maintain present-ness with God.

Words of assurance, words of warning

There is abundant provision in God at the throne of grace for us to maintain this present-ness and continue steadfast and faithful unto the end. God will always be faithfully speaking so as to keep us safe from all evil—if for my part I am hearing and heeding His leadings. If not, this is an indication of dullness on my part. If so I must be chastened. I must be stirred. I must be awakened. Hence, the many loving warnings of Scripture.

Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

It is a serious error in doctrine when we “doctrinalize” statements like this as not pertaining to the truly regenerate. The promises of God are real. The warnings accompany the promises because the possibility of falling short is also real.

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. (1 Cor 10:12)

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. (2 Pt 3:17)

The word beware… it means be aware of. Be mindful that it is possible for the righteous to be led away with the error of the wicked. Peter follows with words of comforting encouragement:

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2 Pt 3:18)

In his first epistle also Peter combines these two—the warning and the comfort:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are  accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Pt 5:8-11)

I lay these words of Peter to heart, coming as they do from one who missed it badly because he had failed to lay to heart His Lord’s exhortation to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt 26:41).

About the same time I “happened upon” the warning in 2 John, I was reading by “coincidence” a book by A.B. Simpson called Joshua and The Land of Promise. (It’s actually a combination of two books by those titles.) In the chapters toward the end of the second he sets forth side by side words of assurance, and words of warning.

In closing, here are excerpts from those chapters. I found them convicting.

From a chapter called Inheriting:

Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed. (Josh 13:1)

And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you? (Josh 18:3)

The word slack implies they were indolent, and quite satisfied with their present condition. There was a lack of holy energy and aspiration after the inheritance promised. They were taking things easy. They were little concerned about failure and sin…. They were breathing the atmosphere of the enchanted ground. Have you never, perhaps even while on your knees, had such an influence thrown over you—the very anodyne of Satan, who would thus lull your spiritual senses to sleep? How it has made you shrink from the pain of holy inspiration, and made you willing to fall back into a passive contentment. God is calling you to press forward, to “lay aside every weight,” and  “be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Is this your spiritual state, beloved? If not, ask the Lord to awaken you out of your sleep. There may come a very terrible awakening some day if you do not.


The day will soon come when you, too, will be old and stricken in years. Time is rushing by; God has not given you a day too many. They are going fast. Suppose they should stop tomorrow, and you never have another opportunity to gain a victory for Him. You would give all the world for a chance to resist temptation, or for another hard place in  which to glorify God as you had before dishonored Him. The days once gone can never come back. You will not pass this way again.

There will be no chance in heaven to learn holiness, to have patience with unholy people, or to love your enemies….

If you find difficulties in your homes, or enemies in your own heart, or trouble anywhere in your life, God has given them to you as opportunities for victory. There you will find the crown of glory and the land of promise. It is always the place where God plants His paradises. Eden is always in the midst of a wilderness….

When He wanted a capital, He sent David to take a hill so difficult to capture that its inhabitants laughed at him, and defended it with the blind and lame. Yet David conquered it, and it became the Zion of the Lord, the holiest, dearest place in all the world forever.

From a chapter called The Danger of Declension:

Therefore we find the New Testament epistles, where they speak of the highest possibilities of Christian experience, most urgently warning the believer against the danger of backsliding, calling us to ceaseless vigilance and constant obedience. Even where God’s eternal faithfulness is most securely pledged to keep us, we are called upon all the more to exercise a spirit of watchfulness and constant dependence on HIs all-sufficient grace.

Hence, we find John saying in one breath, “The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you,” and yet in the next, “Now, little children, abide in Him.” We find Jude pointing us to Him that is able to keep us from falling, and yet enjoining us to “keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

We find Peter saying, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations,” but adding in the same epistle, “Beloved, beware lest ye also be led away with the error of the wicked and fall from your own steadfastness,” and again assuring us that “His divine power hath give us all things that pertain to life and godliness,” but also charging us to give diligence to make our calling and election sure, “for if we do these things we shall never fail.”

And while Paul can exclaim, in the language of the sublimest confidence, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him against that day;” yet he also charges Timothy in the same epistle, “That good thing that was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost that dwelleth in thee.” “Watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

And to the Corinthians:

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” But lest this should be too strong it is followed by the word of assurance, “God is faithful and will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” And then the balance is made complete by the final word of gentle warning, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” There is no discouragement, but there is no presumption; the danger is real, but the security is ample; not, however, for blind, presuming rashness, but for watchful, humble, holy, and persevering obedience.

The Bible is no system of cast-iron dogmas, but the wise, firm and gentle hand of a loving teacher and guide, adjusting its message to our situation and condition, whether of depression or false security. If in an attitude of wilful disobedience, it has no absolute promise of unconditional security, but words of stern and terrible awakening and warning; but for humble trust and watchful obedience it has nothing but encouragement and the assurance of God’s everlasting faithfulness and love.

There is, then, real danger of declension, even on the part of a consecrated Christian, should he for  one moment become separated from Christ, or relax His vigilance and constant dependence. Sanctification is not a state of infallible holiness, but a place of dependence upon Christ and abiding communion with Him. “He that abideth in Him sinneth not,” but “apart from Me ye can do nothing.” And the strongest saint will, like Simon Peter, make the most desperate failure whenever he trusts his own strength, or attempts to stand alone.

Indeed, we are never truly safe till, like Peter, we have learned our constant danger and our need of Jesus every moment. Nor let us forget that declension after consecration would be for us a fearful thing. The most terrific declensions of the world’s history have usually originated with those who have had much light before. And failure, after all that the Lord has brought us into, would be utterly sad and unutterably disastrous.

Beloved, let us abide in Him, let us put on the whole armour of God, that we may stand against the wiles of the Devil, let us adhere faithfully to His holy Word, and walk in obedience to all His commandments, and above all, let us depend implicitly upon His keeping, fearing to take one step alone. We fear not while He holds our hand and leads us safely in the most difficult paths, and makes us “walk upon our high places.”

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