Salvation and Service

An Address on "Doing Business for Christ"

The Lord Jesus was about to enter into the house of Zacchaeus, and we read: "And Jesus said to him, This day is salvation come to this house, for so much as he also is a son of Abraham. And the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost" (Luke 19:9).

Zacchaeus was a man with no great reputation. The people complained when the Lord went to his house that He had gone to be guest with a man that was a sinner. He was a sinner, and that was the reason the Lord went to his house. Where else should the Saviour have gone? The doctor goes to the houses of the sick, and the Saviour came to seek and save the lost. How strangely blind these people were who found fault with the Lord for going into the house of a sinner! That is the place most suited to Him, where He can show the exceeding riches of His grace. Are there any of you, my hearers, who have not opened your doors to Him yet? I proclaim to you the wonderful fact that, this day He would abide at your house. Don't say you would like to put some things right there first. They never will be put right until He gains an entrance, for He is the only one who can put you and your house right.

What will He bring into your house if you will let Him? He will bring salvation, for He is Salvation Himself, and in having Him you will have it. He will bring grace and peace and joy. For He will come Himself and abide with you, and never leave you nor forsake you. Sinners should not doubt His love — how wonderfully He has proved it — "He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him," and by His stripes you may be healed.

It has often been said that the Lord Jesus saves us that we might serve Him. And that is right. This may not be the highest aspect of the Christian life, but it is a most blessed and important side of it; and whoever makes light of it can know but little of the constraining love of Christ. We are to become witnesses to the grace that has saved us, and to do business for Christ with the wealth that He has given to us. This is our responsibility, and it is set before us in this striking parable of the pounds.

"A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom." I want you first to note how the Lord describes Himself. "A certain nobleman." The One who has saved us and whom we are to represent and serve is THE NOBLEMAN. All true nobility is in Him. Where else can you look for it? God found it in Him. How absolute was His fidelity to God — ever obedient, ever dependent, He did always the things that pleased Hint, so that God could say, "Behold My Servant, the One in whom My soul delights." And how noble He was in His ways with men. No selfish motive ever moved Him, no hatred or ingratitude ever changed Him. He would not put forth His power for His own relief, but for others that power knew no limit or rest. He was the servant of all from early morn to close of day. It is recorded that "all the people came early in the morning to Him." He was there waiting for them when they came; to teach them, to serve them, to heal them; and not until every man had gone to his own house did He retire, a homeless man, to the Mount of Olives. And everything that He did in His life of service was nobly done, beautifully done. See Him as He stands beside the widowed mother, weeping for her dead. His heart is moved with compassion for her sorrow, and His word rebukes the cause of it and makes her son live again. Then He moves on without waiting for reward or recognition. See Him stoop to gather the children to His heart whom His disciples would have driven away — they were of no account to others, but how dear they were to Him! No need escaped His notice, no sigh reached His ear in vain. Self-sacrificing love placed Him at the service of all, and He served because love must serve in a world of sin and need. Wonderful Saviour! The true Nobleman! Our Lord and Master, who has saved us that we might serve Him! O Christian, we are to represent Him where He is not known! But how can we do that unless we are near to Him, and learn of Him?

"But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him saying, We will not have this man to reign over us." The next thing that we must note is that we are to occupy for Him in a world that has refused His claims. He is the rightful King of all, but He is the rejected king. The world of men did not appreciate His nobility, so ignoble were they. His meekness, gentleness, and long-suffering moved them to nothing save hatred. The world has not changed to acknowledge His goodness, and Christ has not changed to meet its ignoble standards. He is not wanted in it now any more than He was, and we are to represent Him and trade for Him where He is not wanted. It should be plain to us that the world will not, cannot help us in this our Lord's business. We cannot call upon its resources and we ought not to follow its ways. We are to serve in the midst of it as our Master did — doing good to all men — but we must look outside of it for our supplies and directions.

"And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said to them, Occupy till I come." It is not in this parable as in that of the Talents in Matthew's Gospel, where the number of talents were distributed according to the ability of the servants, but to each servant is given a pound. The pound is that great treasure which the Lord brought into the world. It is the knowledge of God in His grace. This is specially unfolded for us in this Gospel of Luke. Jesus came into the world full of grace; He revealed the blessed fact that God is not against men but for them, and that He finds His great joy in blessing them, and in no part of the Word is this taught more conclusively than in Luke 15. The Lord brought the true knowledge of God from heaven into the world, but He did not take it away when He returned. He left it here. He has committed it to us. It is a great treasure; and thus it is described for us in 2 Corinthians 4, "For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." This is the silver pound, and we are responsible to put it into circulation on our Lord's behalf, to trade for Him with it until He comes.

I ask you, happy Christian, what can compare in value with the knowledge of God? It has meant much to you. Without it you were without hope, without light, without peace; a wanderer, an orphan, an unforgiven sinner. But the gospel of His grace has changed all that, and you can say, "God is for us." You can wake in the morning with the thought that you know God, that He loves you and He cares for you. Your needs are many, but His supplies are infinite, and His mercies are renewed every morning to you. Just as the manna was always waiting, morning by morning, for Israel in the wilderness, and God was never late with His supplies of it, so now a full provision awaits you when the day's needs commence. What peace of mind, what quietness this knowledge should give you!

The quietness of mind and contentment that the knowledge of God gives is necessary if we are to trade successfully, for if we are marked by worry and irritability and discontent, men of the world might well say to us, "What have you got that we have not?" But if they see that we have something that sustains us in trial and keeps us quiet amid the stress and tear of life, they may be ready to listen to our words. So shall we have the joy of trading with our pound, of speaking to men and women of the God whom we know, and the words we speak will be words in season to them that are weary.

We may tell them that we know a God whose compassions are without limit, that never a cry to Him has been refused or will be as long as the day of grace lasts. We may tell them that God is moved because of their distress, and that His mercy is poured forth to meet them in their misery. We may tell them that He has searched them, that He knows them and their sins, and yet He will receive and save them; that He commends His love to them in that while they were yet sinners Christ died for them. What good news is this for weary, sinful men! Strange it is that they care about it so little! Strange that we who possess this treasure should show such faint zeal in trading with it.

If a man is to trade successfully he must consider carefully where and how to trade, and this is surely not less important in that which is the chief business of the servant of the Lord, and every Christian is a servant. Doctors, mechanics, teachers, nurses, typists, clerks, and many other callings we may follow, but all these are secondary. We desire to be efficient, in these secular duties, and that is right, but our chief concern is our business for the Lord, and we ought to know where and how He would have us to serve. We ought to know where we can put the pound out at the best rate of interest. With most of us the Lord intends that we should continue in the calling wherewith we are called and hold forth the Word of life and shine as lights just where we are. It may be that He would have some of us to carry the pound in diligent labour into the streets and lanes of the city, or far out into heathen lands. In these things He, the Master, must direct; it is ours to obey, to serve, to trade.

"And it came to pass that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded those servants to be called to him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much each man had gained by trading."

The absence of our Lord is not to be for ever. "Occupy till I come" links up the present with the future, and produces solemn thoughts as to what He will say to us when He returns. But there is encouragement for us in the parable, for sure we are that our Lord will not forget any bit of true service. Heaven's book-keeping is accurate. All that we have gained for our Lord is entered there, and it will give the Lord great joy to acknowledge the faithfulness of His servants.

But there was one servant who knew not his Lord, though he stood with the rest who did and appeared to be what they were. To him the pound was an encumbrance, so he hid it in a napkin. It was something, perhaps, of which he was ashamed — for the gospel of God is despised even by some who professed to be servants of Christ, men who would stand well in the eyes of the world — so he laid it aside, and if he did business at all he did it with his own base coin, upon which the image and superscription of the King did not appear. There are many such. The gospel of the blessed God is out of date in their view; man's wit and wisdom pleases them better, and is more popular in the world, and while they still profess to be servant of Christ, by their words they deny Him.

This servant did not know the Lord at all; out of his own mouth will we judge him. "I knew," he said, "that thou wert an austere man." Did he know? Did he not declare his ignorance when he opened his mouth? Who among you who know the Lord will go down on your knees before Him this night and say to Him, "I know that Thou art an austere man"? Nay, you have other things to say of Him. You have seen no frowns upon His brow; you have heard no hard words from His lips; the tenderest heart in the universe beats in His breast, and you have proved it so. Your service has been full of failure; blundered often you have, but those very blunders have become opportunities for the display of His grace to you. This man did not know the Lord, so we who do know Him must conclude he was a wicked servant, who loved himself and despised His Lord and His pound.

"How much?" and "Of what sort?" (1 Cor. 3); thus will all our work be tested. But let us have neither doubt nor question as to this matter, by the pound alone can we gain by trading. The knowledge of God as revealed by Christ Jesus, now told out in the gospel, and this alone can bring men to God and subdue them to Christ. All else will fail, no matter how plausible and popular; the gospel alone is God's power to salvation to every one that believes. Knowing this, may we earnestly desire to be kept diligently putting it into circulation "till He comes."