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Discover the Book - Sept. 4, 2007

  • 2007 Sep 04

Christian Liberty







In the fall of 1896 a pastor in Topeka, Kansas began to read a book he was writing a chapter a week.  He took 12 weeks to do so -- in the end he published it calling it “In His Steps”.


  The story, now familiar, selling millions of copies in the century nearly following bears repeating:


  We are studying Christian Liberty.  The fourth powerful principle to guide our lives is the Principle of Imitation.  We as ourselves in each area of life-- Is this imitating Christ?  Or as Sheldon, what would Jesus do? Turn again to Hebrews 12:2


The other three principles are already shared:  

1.      Would this cause another to stumble?  (1 Cor. 8:9)

2.      Is this something that strengthens/edifies my Christian life?  (1 Cor. 10:23)

3.      Will this weigh me down, hinder my race for the prize of God’s race?  (Heb. 12:1)         


The fourth again is so captured in Sheldon’s sermon, “In His Steps”.          


The setting is Raymond, a normal suburban town. First church is pastored by Henry Maxwell. 

While working on a sermon from 1 Pet. 2:21 about following Christ, a poor, hungry and sick man stumbles up to his door. 


Pastor Maxwell tells him there is nothing he can do but gives him his sympathy.  

               “The Rev. Henry Maxwell closed the door and heard

            the man walk down the steps.  As he went up into

            his study he saw from his hall window that the man

            was going slowly down the street, still holding his

            hat between his hands.  There was something in the

            figure so dejected, homeless and forsaken, that the

            minister hesitated a moment as he stood looking at

            it.  Then he turned to his desk, and with a sigh began

            the writing where he had left off.”


After a majestic service at the First Church with organ, choir and an eloquent sermon,  Out of the shadows of the back rows stumbles this man to the floor.  


  “Suddenly, into the midst of this perfect accord and concord between preacher and audience, there came a very remarkable interruption.  It would be difficult to indicate the extent of the shock which this interruption measured.  It was so unexpected, so entirely contrary to any thought of any person present that it offered no room for argument, or, for the time being, of resistance.  


“The sermon had come to a close.  The Rev. Henry Maxwell had turned the half of the big Bible over upon his manuscript and was about to sit down, as the quartette prepared to rise and sing the closing selection, 


                        ‘All for Jesus, All for Jesus,

                        All my being’s ransomed powers,’  


When the entire congregation was startled by the sound of a man’s voice.  It came from the rear of the church, from one of the seats under the gallery. The next moment the figure of a man came out of the shadow there and walked down the middle aisle.  


“Before the startled congregation realized what was being done; the man had reached the open space in front of the pulpit and had turned about, facing the people.  


“‘I’ve been wondering since I came in here --’they were the words he used under the gallery,    and he repeated them, ‘if it would be just the thing to say a word at the close of this service.        I’m not drunk and I’m not crazy, and I’m perfectly harmless; but if I die, as there is every             likelihood I shall in a few days, I want the satisfaction of thinking that I said my say in a             place like this, before just this sort of a crowd.’ 


“‘I’m not an ordinary tramp, though I don’t know of any teaching of Jesus that makes one          kind of a tramp less worth saving than another. Do you?’  He put the question as naturally as     if the whole congregation had been a small private Bible class.  He paused just a moment          and coughed painfully.  Then he went on.  


“‘I lost my job ten months ago.  I am a printer by trade.’ “What did he mean when he said ‘Follow me?’  The minister said,  here the man turned about and looked up at the pulpit, ‘that it was necessary for the disciple of Jesus to follow his steps, and he said the steps were obedience, faith, love, and imitation.  But I did not hear him tell just what he meant that to            mean, especially the last step.  What do Christians mean by following the steps of Jesus?  I’ve tramped through this city for three days trying to find a job and in all that time I’ve not had a word of sympathy or comfort except from...  about is, what is meant by following Jesus? 


Do you mean that you are suffering and denying yourselves and trying to save lost suffering humanity just as I understand Jesus did? What do you mean by it?  I see the ragged edge of    things a good deal.  I understand there are more than five hundred men in this city in my case.  Most of them have families.  My wife died four months ago. I’m glad she is out of trouble.  My little girl is staying with a printer’s family until I find a job. Somehow I get puzzled when I see so many Christians living in luxury and singing, “Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow thee,” and remember how my wife died in a tenement in New York City, gasping for air and asking God to take the little girl too.  Of course I don’t expect you people can prevent every one from dying of starvation, lack of proper nourishment and tenement air, but what does following Jesus mean?  I understand that Christian people own a good many of the tenements.


A member of a church was the owner of the one where my wife died, and I have wondered if      following Jesus all the way was true in his case.  I heard some people singing at a church prayer meeting the other night,  

                        “All for Jesus, all for Jesus;

                        All my being’s ransomed powers;

                        All my thoughts and all my doings,

                        All my days and all my hours;” 


I kept wondering as I sat on the steps outside just what they meant by it.  It seems to me there’s an awful lot of trouble in the world that somehow wouldn’t exist if all the people who sing such songs went and lived them out.  I suppose I don’t understand.  But what would Jesus do?  Is that what you mean by following his steps? 


It seems to me sometimes as if the people in the city churches had good clothes and nice houses to live in, and money to spend for luxuries, and could go away on summer vacations and all that, while the people outside of the churches, thousands of them, I mean, die in tenements and walk the streets for jobs, and never have a piano or a picture in the house, and grow up in misery and drunkenness and sin--’ the man gave a queer lurch over in the direction of the communion table and laid one grimy hand on it.  His hat fell upon the carpet at his feet.  A stir went through the congregation. 


Dr. West half rose from his feet, but as yet the silence was unbroken by any voice or             movement worth mentioning in the audience.  The man passed his other hand across his eyes, and then, without any warning, fell heavily forward on his face, full length, up the aisle.                


...”I want volunteers from the First Church who will pledge themselves earnestly and honestly for

            an entire year not to do anything without first asking the question, each one will follow Jesus as exactly as he knows how, no matter what the results may be.  I will of course take for granted that my church here will not be surprised at my future conduct as based upon this standard of action, and will not oppose whatever is done if they think Christ would do it.  Have I made my meaning clear?”   So for 282 pages they do -- with incredible results....


Now back to our text Hebrews 11:2, the principle of imitation.  Will this action be what Christ would do? So far we have four.  Let’s note the last three.


  •             Principle #5 - Turn to 1 Cor. 6:12 for the Principle of Experience.  And what we ask is, will this be profitable for the Kingdom of God?
    • Mt. 6:33, remember - seek first His kingdom....  Everything is measured by its relation to the King.
  • Principle #6 is the Principle of Evangelism.  Will this help me to win the lost?  (Col. 4:5; I Cor. 9:19-23)


   So we ask as we face a questionable thing not specifically in the Word of God:  

  1. Would this cause another to stumble?  (! Cor. 8:9)
  2. It this going to strengthen my life?  (1 Cor. 10:23)
  3. Will this slow me down in the race?  (Heb. 12:1)
  4. Does this show that I am following Christ?  (Heb.             12:2; 1 Pet. 2:21)
  5. Am I seeking God’s kingdom through this?  (Mt. 6:33;             1 Cor. 6:22)
  6. Will this help to save a lost person?  (1 Cor. 9:19-23; Col. 4:5)


Will this be to the glory of God?  (1 Cor. 10:31) and that’s it!  (1 Cor. 6:19; Rom. 15:5-







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