21. Following His Steps.

There is certainly a right path for your feet here in this world, and I sincerely hope you are every one walking in that path. You, of course, remember the following lines of a beautiful hymn:

"The Lord is Himself gone before,
He has marked out the path that I tread;
It's as sure as the love I adore,
I have nothing to fear nor to dread.

"There is but that one in the waste,
Which His footsteps have marked as His own;
And I follow in diligent haste
To the seats where He's put on His crown."

 

If there were several roads wherein we might travel there would be some difficulty occasioned. But there is only one, the one in which Christ Himself walked. So the apostle put it when he wrote, "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:21).

It will interest you to know that the word used for "example" (hupogrammos) in this passage means the head-line for a writing copy, and this is the only instance of its use in the New Testament.

When a Greek schoolboy was learning to write his Alpha, Beta, Gamma, his master set him a "hupogrammos," which he had to imitate in order to learn how to form his letters correctly.

Now we are told the Lord Jesus has left us a "hupogrammos" as a guide for our steps. Every word and act of His when passing through this world go to make up this copy. These are recorded in the Gospels for our instruction. There we may see what He said and what He did, and also how He suffered. And in this history we have our pattern, the constant model for our lives.

Have you ever examined one of your old copybooks in which you started to form pot-hooks and hangers? There was the "hupogrammos" on the top line in beautifully regular "copper-plate." The next line was your laborious imitation of the "hupogrammos" with the slight angularities and tremulous irregularities that betray the faithful beginner. But as you looked down the page you were struck with the growing degeneracy — angles becoming more acute, lines more wavy, blots larger and more abundant. You, turning back over the experience of your subsequent years, are able to explain why your last line was so much worse than the first. You now know it was because you were so much farther from the "hupogrammos" than you were when writing the first line. Your eyes were not upon the perfect head-line, but upon the very poor copy of it you made yourself; and so you went from bad to worse. The simple secret of success is to observe carefully and minutely the writing given for your imitation.

And as in the above illustration so it is in the text already quoted from Peter's First Epistle. To follow the steps of Christ, you must study His "hupogrammos"; because what He did you are expected to do. The Lord said, "I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you" (John 13:15). "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me" (Matt. 11:29). The apostle Paul writes, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). Another apostle, John, says, "He that says he abides in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked" (1 John 2:6). Notice very carefully how you are exhorted to have the eye on Christ; and, of course, this implies especially on what is chronicled of Him in the word. Indeed, there is no other way by which you can rightly know what He did or how He walked. If you follow another person in any measure, it is only safe in as far as you compare the conduct of that person with that of Christ as known from the scripture. Hence Paul in addressing the Corinthian saints says, "Be ye followers [imitators] of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).

But the great snare of which you must beware is that of following some ideas of your own under the mistaken impression that they are the footsteps of Christ. This is almost certain to be the result if, when you arrive at a point of difficulty, you ask yourself the question, "What would Jesus do?" How are you to know what He would do in your circumstances? It would be better if you had asked yourself, "What has He said?" or, "What did He do?" Then an answer on which you can depend would be found in the Bible. But in the former instance you are trusting to your own imagination, which is very unreliable even in an advanced Christian, and very much more so in your case. You can make sure, however, that your ideas, apart from the statements of scripture, of what Jesus would do in any particular situation will be altogether wrong.

When the multitude wanted bread to eat, the Lord "knew what He would do," but the disciples did not (John 6:6). The disciples thought they knew what the Lord would do when they saw one casting out devils in His name and so they forbade him because he was not one of them; but they erred, and the Lord rebuked them (Mark 9:38, 39). And again when the infants were brought to Jesus the apostles asked themselves, What would the Master do?" and they rebuked the mothers. Again they fell into error, and the Lord was much displeased (Mark 10:13, 14). When a certain village of Samaria did not receive the Lord, James and John, assuming they knew what He would do, and quoting scriptural example, asked Him "Wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?" But they were again rebuked; for whenever these men, so privileged as they were, set themselves to determine what the Lord would do, they immediately came to a wrong conclusion. And you may depend upon it you will do the same thing.

I know the Spirit of God indwells believers since Pentecost; but He will not teach you apart from the written word. He was promised to guide us into all truth; but then the word is truth (John 16:13, John 17:17).

I trust my young friends will study this important scripture (1 Peter 2:21) for themselves. The character of the steps of the Lord Jesus is specially that of suffering. Be careful not to be misled by your own thoughts as to what are Christ's steps; follow the scripture. In the language of our passage, look steadfastly at the "hupogrammos" itself, not on your own imperfect copy of it.