"For other foundation can, no man lay than that is laid which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every mans work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." I Cor. 3:11-17.
Two men were walking down the streets of London, Elder William Pennefather, and Reginald Radcliffe, an able Liverpool lawyer. A begger came up and looked hurriedly into the fact of each. Without a moment's hesitation he said to the preacher, "0 man, with Heaven shining in your face, give me a penny."
Long years ago when Moses had been communing with God for eighty days, when he came down from the mountain, it was written, "That Moses knew not that the skin of his face shone" (Ex. 34:29). In the early days of Christianity, the witness of the apostles was truly effective, for do not the Scriptures say, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). When I remember this experience of Moses and that of the New Testament apostles, I pray for grace that the world may be able to see Heaven shining in my face. I am interested in the members of the church of which I am pastor having faces wherein Heaven does shine. Further, I am interested in the members of my invisible audience being people who have Heaven shining in their faces. It is because of this desire that I preach this sermon, "Life As A Structure."
Our text declares to us first of all that there is a foundation to be laid, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Cor 3:11). This is the most important part of any building. In Philadelphia, opposite the Eastern Theological Seminary, there stands a great hotel building, which cost over two million dollars, and yet it has never been used. A building inspector condemned it as unsafe, even before it was fully complete because imperfect material had been put into the foundation. How much more important is the foundation upon which each of us is to build his life!
The only foundation upon which we can build is the Lord Jesus Christ. "Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner" (I Peter 2:6,7). "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of your builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:10-12). Jesus Christ then is the foundation. We cannot take these words too literally. The foundation of all this world's hopes and of every man's salvation is Jesus Christ Himself.
"My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
"On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand."
Jesus Christ is the only foundation which will stand when the day of testing conies. "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell; and great was the fall of it" (Matt 7:24-27). In view of this Scripture, you need to be sure that you are building upon the Rock; and what is the Rock? "And that Rock was Christ" (I Cor. 10:4).
The foundation thus is what God does apart from man to enable him to begin to live rightly before God. Man does not do one thing in order to put in the foundation of his life. When Jesus died on the cross. He said, "It is finished" (John 19:30). Everything that was needed for man's salvation was thus completed. Even today though man repents, his repentance is a gift from God. "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31). "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying. Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18). "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth" (II Tim. 2:25). Actually the faith which one exercises in salvation is a gift of God, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8, 9). Is not salvation thus considered throughout the Scriptures as a gift of God? "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift" (II Cor. 9:15). "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). "But Peter said unto him. Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money" (Acts 8:20). "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Isa. 55:1).
No man can begin to live rightly just as he is. Sin has come into the very springs of our nature, and has touched and tainted the deepest things in us. We have been depraved, polluted and enfeebled by its presence. There is no part of our nature which we hold today in purity. Immense numbers of men are busy in a vain attempt to lay a foundation of their own. As builders drive in piles into the marshy ground and throw in vast loads of earth and stone, so men pile up their good deeds and sufferings, their penitential regrets, their sacrifices, and their recognitions of Divine mercy, and lay these down as a substantial basis upon which they hope to raise their life as a structure. What vain toils are these! The gulf is too deep to be filled up by man; the materials cast unto it have no real strength or worth.. God has thus declared man's inability and the futility of man's labors; "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Rom. 4:5). "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Rom. 3:28). "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal. 2:16).
Truly the foundation is of the Lord! Long years ago, old Jonah declared this truth, "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9).
There is a building to be raised upon this foundation. As the foundation is built by God, so the structure is to be raised by man. God somewhat retires after laying the foundation, and leaves the building in our hands. Does He not say, "If any man build upon this foundation"? (Vs. 12). In verse 13 He declares, "The fire shall try every man's work," and again in verses 14 and 15 He says, "If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." Thus in these four verses (I Cor^ 3:12-15), God five times refers to what is put upon the foundation as man's building.
He tells us what we may build and what we ought to build. We may build a house; we ought to build a temple. The apostle seems to refer to the building of a house when he speaks of "wood, hay and stubble." Wood was used for the posts and doors; "hay" mixed with mud was used for the walls; and "stubble" was used for the roof. These are brittle, inflammable materials used for the building of a house, but never for a temple. The temples were built of precious stones, both durable and beautiful and were adorned with gold and silver. Each man then is called upon to build a temple and not a house, as man's life is to be a temple of God. We are not to make a living, but to build a life. The man who just makes a living is building of "wood, hay and stubble," while the one who builds a life is rearing a temple unto God.
While it is true that the building is to be of man's labors and efforts, it is also a cooperative work of man and God "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12,13).
While it is true that the foundation of our life as a structure was finished at Calvary, it is equally true that the structure that we build was begun at Calvary. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). "This is a faithful saying and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works" (Titus 3:8).
By every deed which we do, after we are saved, we lay on a stone. Be sure you use the right materials. There are six of these mentioned which it is possible for us to use in the building "wood, hay, stubble, gold, silver and precious stones." Every man must use one or more of these six materials.
Just what is included in "wood, hay and stubble"? Our evil tempers, our worldly habits, and our religious errors. Did you lose your temper yesterday? Then a little "wood, hay and stubble" were placed into your building. Have you as a professing Christian spent this evening at a picture show, a card party or a dance? Then some more "wood, hay and stubble" have come into your structure this day. Have you as a preacher or teacher labored to advance some religious error, and have you as an individual Christian put your stamp of approval upon that error by your presence? Then more "wood, hay and stubble" have been put into your structure. All errors but especially religious errors, are very abundant. How easily it is to build them up into our system of faith. Likewise the vices of the world abounding on every hand, are besetting the Christian both fore and aft. So easily, vices work their way into the structure we are building; if we are not careful they may become a part of us, and thus "wood, hay and stubble" go into our life temple.
"He smoked cigars three times a day,
Ten centers, too, at that,
Then gave a nickel to the church
When the deacon passed the hat.
"She gave one cent for mission work,
Then spent two cents for gum,
And really bowed her head and prayed
0 Lord, Thy kingdom come.
"They sat at home and wondered why
The church did not succeed;
She chewed her gum and couldn't tell,
He puzzled, smoked his weed."
Surrounded by vices, temptations and evils, some may suspect that there is no possibility of their building, except "wood hay and "stubble," but that is a jaundiced view of life. The good and proper materials are likewise available, for does not the apostle refer to "gold, silver, and precious stones"? Did you go to church today and worship in spirit and in truth? (John 4:25). Have virtue and truth found a welcome in your life throughout your wakeful hours this day? Have you visited others with an idea of helping them? Has your life been filled with right and proper living? Have the true Scriptural doctrines of the Bible been given the proper place in your life? Then, if so, into the building today has gone some gold, silver, and precious stones.
Here are the six materials before us with which to build. No one builds entirely of the good nor yet entirely of the evil. At best our building, is but a patch work. Here is a structure before us. Above the foundation there may be five or six courses of good, massive stone, well cemented and joined together; then a mass of poor material, just thrown at the structure; then a little more good; then some "hay and stubble." Possibly at the top there is a marble slab. No one would think of putting up a building like this, and yet it is thus we build our lives as structures before God. The greatest characters of the Bible, by their examples, have thus built. If you will read the lives of Jacob, Simon Peter, and David, you will find that even these great men of God built their lives just as we build today, with the six materials intermingling them with no thought of architectural beauty and design.
Near Gallipolis, Ohio, there is a building called the "crazy house," not because of the mental condition of the occupants thereof but because of its appearance due to a lack of architectural conformity. I am told that it was built by a man who was a carpenter, and from each job that he had he would carry home a brick, a piece of board, or some paint. It is built of various sized and shaped doors. The weather boarding is of odds and ends. There are many colors and styles of brick in the chimney. The colors of paint on the outside are too varied for calculation. I wonder if perhaps the structure which each of us is building by way of our lives does not look a great deal like this "crazy house." Possibly in God's sight my life structure has no more architectural conformity and beauty than does the house referred to above. Doubtlessly your life is an even greater "crazy house," and if you could see the kind of a house you have built, you would perhaps disdain the ownership thereof.
The work of building goes on. In storm, in shade, summer and winter, the work continues. When the builder is active and conscious and when he is weary and helpless, this mystic temple continues to rise, and at death the cap stone is placed, and the whole work is finished. This leads us to declare there is a time given to finish the work and when that time comes not another stone can be laid on by the builder. "I must work the works of him. that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4). "'And he said unto them. It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7). "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die" (Eccl. 3:1,2).
Go out to a cemetery and look at the tombstones. Here is a marker which tells that an infant was born, who wrestled with mortality for but a few days, and then died. It may seem that that life was wasted, but depend upon it, that little history was the building of a temple and when it was finished, the angels carried the little builder away.
Or here is a stone which marks the meeting place of one who was a little worker, who had just been saved. He was only permitted to take a few tiny steps in following the Master. Many would say that he had done nothing to make a finished life. Even you perhaps would say, "Too bad he could not finish his life." Wrong you are, that little workman will never need be ashamed, for when God called, he had finished his temple life.
On the next stone you see may give you a maiden's name, just a young virgin, ready to marry. As she looked toward her bridal day, she was snatched away. Her parents and lover read, "Her sun is gone down while it is yet day" (Jer. 15:9). And they say, "How true it is of her." But they are wrong again, for the angels have written, "Evening tide," and the Saviour has written, "Finished," and her life's temple was complete.
Or perhaps here is a great business man. He has been making money and giving it liberally. His name stands as a synonym of justice, truth, honesty, and Christianity. He sickens and dies, as it seems to us prematurely. It looks like a calamity. It seems that nothing was finished, but his temple life was complete.
And now we come to the grave of an old pilgrim. He had lingered long in this world. The shock of corn seems more than ripe. He was blind, deaf, in pain, and helpless as a child. He wants to die; he begs to die; maybe others even want him to die. Finally God hears his cry and he passes out into the skies. Would not it have been better if he had gone years before? No! No! It was the right time, it was just his "even-tide."
Our text further declares that there will be a testing fire. "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is" (I Cor. 3:13). Our day is now; God's day is coming. We spare our vices, sins, religious errors, worldly habits, and evil tempers, and all these go into our house. Some day these will be burned, when the testing fire of God is applied to our life structure and nothing but the good and the true will be left. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (II Cor. 5:10). Our building may be a mixture of good and bad, but when God's testing fire burns over it, the evil which we have spared will all be burned.
Our text seems to imply that there may be some who will have nothing left except the foundation, "If any mans work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (I Cor. 3:15). Others will have but very, very little. This we do know that all that has been done in Christian service in the name of, and for the glory of God, shall endure. "And every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour" (I Cor. 3:8). When one builds a house the architect has to give his certificate before the builder can get his final pay. Truly before any of the redeemed may secure their rewards, the Divine architect of our lives, even Jesus, must test that which we have built and only that which endures the test to which He submits us will be found worthy of recognition or rewards.
When (hat day of testing conies, the gold, silver, and precious stones will not crumble; they will not lose one atom of their weight. All that we have done which has been worth while shall stand as a basis of our rewards. Even the least deed that we do, will receive its rightful reward. "And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward" (Matt. 10:42).
In view of all of this how shall I as a child of God treat this body of mine? Shall I smoke, drink, eat gluttonously, over sleep, under sleep, over work, or under work? Shall I go to church, shall I pray, shall I abstain from the world, shall I serve God according to the Bible, shall I crucify my flesh? In view of this testing fire, may you answer these questions remembering that the "wood, hay and stubble" must be consumed, while the "gold, silver, and precious stones" must endure.
"I will go where you want me to go, dear Lord,
Real service is what I desire,
I will sing a solo any time, dear Lord,
But don't ask me to sit in the choir.
"I will do what you want me to do, dear Lord,
I like to see things come to pass,
But don't ask me to teach girls or boys, dear Lord,
I'd rather just stay in my class.
"I will do what you want me to do, dear Lord,
I yearn for the Kingdom to thrive,
I will give you my nickels and dimes, dear Lord,
But please don't ask me to tithe.
"I will go where you want me to go, dear Lord,
I'll say just what you want me to say;
I am busy just now with myself, dear Lord,
I'll help you some other day."
Oh, may this attitude be foreign to the lives of all my audience tonight! Rather, may you now cry out, saying, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6).
"Keith L. Brooks, the editor of "Prophecy" told recently of missing some tracts off his desk; suspecting that his little daughter had taken them because of the colored picture on the front page, he stepped into the room where she was playing. She had all of her dolls lined up along the wall rag dolls, china rolls and even a Shirley Temple at the head of the class. In front of each of these she had placed a tract. When Mr. Brooks asked about the tracts before the dolls, she said, "I want them all to know about Jesus." May such a spirit characterize us as we build our temple lives!
Many months ago I preached this message for the first time. At its conclusion, one of the best Christian men I have ever known said, "I wish I could tear down the shack I've been building, start over on my life's temple." Perhaps many of us wish the same. Well, none of us can do so, but from this day we can begin to be more careful that we build of "gold, silver, and precious stones," and use less and less of "wood, hay and stubble."
Perhaps some unsaved one is listening, who never has begun to build properly. All of his life has been wasted. May the foundation tonight be put into your life, by repentance and faith, and now begin to build your temple for eternity.
"Then they that feared the Lord spake often, one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels" Mal. 3:16, 17.
There are reasons why that God refers to each of the saved as "jewels." First of all, jewels are of all colors and they are found everywhere. Truly God's "jewels" are of all colors of mankind and found everywhere. When the artist had painted "The Children of the World," all of them were shown with white faces. In a dream, he saw an angel working by his easel changing four of these white faces to represent the other colors of the world. Whereupon, he arose from his bed, mixed his own paints, and finished the picture showing the black, red, yellow, and brown child as being "The Children of the World" just the same as the white. In the days of His flesh, Jesus said "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Regardless of color, and irrespective of location, wherever you find one who has trusted the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and who has been washed from his sins in the blood of Jesus that one is one of God's "jewels."
Then, too. God refers to the saved as "jewels," since jewels are the most durable of mineral substances. Every watchmaker realizes that this is true, for the bearings, which are subject to the greatest strain, are always set in jewels. Regardless of how durable earthly jewels may be, they cannot begin to compare with the durability of God's "jewels." God's "jewels" endure forever. "His seed will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven. If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail" (Psa. 89:29-33).
If it is interesting to note why God calls the redeemed "jewels," it is even more interesting to notice how the "jewels" are found. Jewels are often hidden away in rocks and mud. It is much trouble to find them, and requires much difficulty to uncover them. God's "jewels" are lost and hidden away in vile sins and earthly habits. "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within and defile the man" (Mark 7:21-23). They are shut up in hard stony hearts. The Old Testament prophet, speaking for God says, "And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26). No jewel was ever hidden away in more filth and muck than are God's "jewels." "Yea also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil" (Eccl. 9:3). When Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, he referred to their former condition before they were saved, declaring that they whom God had quickened once, "were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1).
Just as it is often necessary to dynamite in order to find earthly jewels, so God's "jewels" likewise must be dynamited to be found. The gospel is God's dynamite. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). Note the expression the "power of God." The Greek word which is translated "power" is literally "dynamite." And isn't it true that the gospel has the same effect upon one's soul as dynamite has upon stone? Many evangelists and preachers resort to all kinds of claptrap methods to get converts. They ask the inquiring sinner to come to the front, and shake hands with the preacher, to pray at an altar of prayer, to reform, to turn over a new leaf, to join the church, to be baptized, or to sign a decision card. All of which are human attempts to change the soul. I heard one of these religious racketeers some time ago, pause in the middle of his sermon and say, "What you ought to do is join the church; even if you haven't got any more religion than a horse; join the church; join the church and get religion afterwards."
What a difference between such an hireling and the preacher who is content to use God's dynamite the gospel of Jesus Christ thus leaving the results in God's hands. For years I have been able to say with Paul, "For I am determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Cor. 2:2). I remember many years ago a middle aged man came to the services which I was conducting one Sunday evening, with the avowed purpose of giving me a thrashing. He did not even intend to come inside the building. One of the brethren of our church insisted that he wait until after the service was over, and urged him to come inside the building. That night I preached on the following text: "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (I Cor. 1:18). I knew nothing at all about this man's intention, or the reason why he was in our services. When the services were over he and his family quietly slipped out. The next Sunday night his boy was saved. The following Sunday night his daughter was saved, and the third Sunday night he, himself was saved. Truly the gospel is the dynamite of God.
A sinner may go to church feeling happy and perfectly satisfied with himself. He may have come only out of curiosity or to please some friend who has invited him. It may be a simple message that is preached, but it takes a firm grip on his soul. He is not half as pleased with himself when he leaves the services as on his entrance. His good deeds don't seem nearly so good, and his righteousness even looks to him as though it might be somewhat unrighteousness. He comes back a second time, and goes away feeling even more miserable than before. His pride has given away to humility, and his self-trust to self-abasement, and self-abandonment. This experience is repeated again and again until he yields himself to the Lord, and is saved by grace and washed by blood. 0 what dynamite is the gospel of Jesus Christ!
During these many years of Christian experience I have seen harlots, infidels, drunkards, thieves, and the vilest of mankind and womankind turn from their sins to the Saviour for salvation. What is it that has caused them to cease in their rebellion, and has led them to renounce their sins and confess Jesus Christ publicly? It is God's dynamite the gospel the fact that Christ died for our sins.
Are the reasons that we have given why God calls the saved, "jewels," interesting to you? Does the finding of the "jewel" by God's dynamite the gospel interest you? Then surely you will be interested in the fashioning of the "jewel." Even though the "jewel" has been found, it is not yet ready to be worn. It is placed in the hands of the great Artificer, the Holy Spirit, who cleanses and polishes it for God.
Just as a jeweler uses water and fire for the polishing of a jewel, so the Holy Spirit uses the same methods. What water does He use? In the Bible, the Word of God, itself is referred to as Water. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" (Eph 5: 25, 26). Just as each one takes a bath and washes away the filth of the body, so each of the redeemed needs to wash in the Word of God after he has been saved, and thus cleanse away the defilement of the world. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word" (Psa. 119:9). "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you" (John 15:3).
A young woman comes into our church building for the services today. Most immodest is her dress; high cut at the bottom and low cut at the top. It has a peek-a-boo front and dιcolletι back. Her hands are weighed down with rings. Her hair is not only bobbed, but wind-blown, frizzled, and marcelled. She enjoys the things of the world; dances, cards, and movies are a part of her nature. In short she is just a modern girl. She has come to the service only because she has been invited; and to show her appreciation for the invitation, she decided she will attempt to endure it once. In the course of the sermon, the Word of God is carried on the wings of the Holy Spirit to her heart. The gospel is to her, truly God's dynamite. She is convicted, and in due course of time is saved. I tell her to make the Bible her standard for life, and request of her that she follow its teachings implicitly. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3: 16, 17). Next Sunday she comes forward and asks for believer's baptism. I ask her why that she desires to be immersed. Like a flash, she turns to the Bible that I have given her, which I requested for her to make her standard for life, and reads, "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death" (Rom. 6:4). Then she reads the Scripture wherein Jesus set the example of baptism. "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him. Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when He was baptized went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And, lo, a voice from heaven, saying. This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:13-17). She says, "Pastor, I want to be buried in baptism just like my Saviour was." What's happened during this first week of her conversion? Simply this, she has been taking a bath in the Word of God. I notice as she makes her offering to the Lord Sunday after Sunday, and she cites as her reason for doing so: "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Mal. 3:8-10). 0, how badly do the anti-missionary crowd and the penny-givers need a bath just here! A few weeks later I notice that her bobbed hair disappears, and her dress becomes much more modest. I say to her, "You look so old-timey any more; you look like you were born 30 years too late. What's become of that pretty hair and those fancy dresses?" She replies, "Pastor, didn't you tell me the Bible was to be my standard for life? Well, I could not follow it and dress as I have been?" Then she reads, "Doth not nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given for a covering" (I Cor. 11:14, 15). "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works" (I Tim. 2:9,10). I notice that her diamond ring, the sign of her engagement is soon removed, and I ask her the reason when I see her coming to church alone. She explains that her betrothed was a man of the world, unsaved, unredeemed, and unregenerate. And since the Scripture said, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (II Cor. 6:14), she had to follow what the Book said, for it was her adopted standard for life. I notice that her name no longer appears in the society stew as a partaker of all kinds of worldliness. The cards, dances, and movies which used to intrigue her have now lost their charm. I notice that she never misses the services of the church. I ask her why it is that she has given up the world, and why that she never misses any services in God's House. To all this she replies, "Pastor, you gave me a Bible, and told me to make it the standard of my life, it tells me how I ought to live before the world. "Abstain from all appearance of evil" (I Thess. 5:22). "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (I Cor. 10:31). It tells me that I ought to go to church, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is" (Heb. 10:25). Therefore I cannot do otherwise as long as I follow the Bible as my standard." Everybody asks, "What's the matter with her, what has caused the change?" The answer is simply this, she has just been taking a bath in God Almighty's bath tub, the Word of God. The Holy Spirit has thus been fashioning a "jewel" through the water of the Word.
The Holy Spirit though, has another method which He uses, namely, fire the fire of affliction. In South America there is a flower which is only visible when the wind blows. It is of the cactus specie. Beautiful flowers protrude from lumps on the stalk when the wind blows against it. Sometimes it takes the fire of affliction to cause the flowers of grace to protrude from our otherwise barren lives. "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word. It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes" (Psa. 119:67,71). In the Salem Pioneer Register, I read a poem presumably written by parents who had lost an only child a babe.
"Only a baby's grave,
A foot or two at most of tear-dewed sod,
But a living God knows what this little grave cost.
Only a baby's life,
Sweet as a perfumed kiss so fleet it goes,
But our Father knows we are nearer to Him for this.
Jewels are really valuable. Not many of my audience possibly possess much wealth in earthly jewels, but there are multiplied millions of dollars wrapped up in value in the jewels of this earth. The value of a jewel, first of all, depends upon its scarceness or rarity. If diamonds were as plentiful as dust, then they would be no more valuable than dust. It's their scarceness which makes them valuable. God's "jewels" are exceedingly scarce too. The majority of churches do not have to build annexes in order to take care of their jewels. We have plenty of church members. In many instances large numbers of these church members are so many unsaved hellions. True jewels God's jewels are exceedingly scarce and hard to find.
Again jewels are valuable because of their luster or their brilliance in shining. God's "jewels" ought to be shining for the Lord. This was the experience of the early apostles. "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). Are you shining in such a way that the world is taking knowledge of you that you have been with Jesus, or is your life so clouded by the things of this world that the luster of your life is lost behind a multitude of sins?
Don't forget: The value of the jewel does not depend upon the mounting. A diamond, itself, has just as much value mounted on a piece of lead as on platinum. God's "jewels" shine just as brightly clothed in calico as in silks. In fact some of the greatest Christians and noblest souls that I have ever known, have been those whose outward dress was very poor, but whose souls really shone for God.
Jewels must be guarded. Those who are fortunate to possess jewel's of great value keep them under lock and key. How marvelous it is to know that God is thus protecting His own. "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (I Pet. 1:5). "For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (II Tim. 1:12). Twenty centuries ago Paul asked, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom. 8:35). Shall Satan? "But he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not" (I John 5:18). Shall temptation? "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (I Cor. 10:13). Shall sin? "For sin shall not have dominion over you" (Rom. 6:14). Shall the law? "For ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:14). Shall the world? "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4). Shall the believer? "THEY SHALL NOT DEPART FROM ME" (Jer. 32:40). As it was impossible for Noah to leave the ark after God had shut him in, so it is impossible for the believer to leave Christ. Someone asks, "Cannot a believer crawl off the Rock of Ages?" Beloved, where is the child of God who wants to crawl off the Rock of Ages? But listen! Paul mentions ten agencies and agents, including the powers of Heaven, earth and Hell, which he declares are unable to separate the believer from God. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword? As it is written, "For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor heights, nor depths, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:35-39).
How interesting it is to think about the wearing of the jewel. Kings and queens only wear their jewels on special occasions. All the jewels of the British Empire were worn at the recent coronation of the King of England. Some day the Lord Jesus Christ is going to be crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. Isn't it wonderful to consider our prospect? In that day those of us who are His "jewels" shall share in the honor of His coronation. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him" (II Tim. 2:12). "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:10). "And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 22:5).
I imagine that some one in our audience may say tonight, "This message is not for me, I am not a 'jewel,' I am just a common stone an unregenerated man." Despair not, dear one, "For I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham" (Matt. 3:9). "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26). May God grant to you the gifts of repentance and faith that you might become one of His "jewels."