FOREWORD. Jesus Only Vance Havner
This collection of sermons, some of which have appeared, in slightly different form, in several Christian publications, is sent out to exalt Him whose Name the title bears. It has been a joy to give them from the pulpit and platform and microphone to audiences all over the land. May their appearance in book form lead many more to know Him and make Him known.
I would like to begin with a personal testimony. My own spiritual experience has gone through three stages. I was converted at the age of ten. The next year I became a preacher and for some years thereafter preached a simple Gospel message.
Later I moved into a more liberal position. It was during these halcyon days just after the first World War. Dreams of world peace and human brotherhood were challenging youthful enthusiasm. Certain modernist preachers were becoming popular and their new approach seemed to set forth the old wine in new bottles. It was evident to me later that the old wine was thrown out with the old bottles but I had not discovered that as yet. I felt that the time had come to strike out on new trails for higher altitudes and so I began to preach about the “new position” and “outmoded categories.”
But the trail of the modern mind, left to itself, runs out in the wilderness, and blessed is the man who wakes up in time to how he is being deceived by these peddlers of new light. From this muddle the Lord delivered me. My first reaction was to plunge into a very stern fundamentalism. I fear that I was rather like the Scotsman who said he was open to conviction but would like to see the man who could convict him! There was a tendency to call down fire on the Samaritans and an inclination to forget what manner of spirit I was of.
For years now I have moved around among many grades and shades and varieties of conservative Christians, preaching in churches and conferences. Such a ministry ranges from staid old churches to popular Gospel tabernacles. In some places I have almost frozen, spiritually, and in others I have almost fried. I have listened to many voices, some well-known and many unknown, analyzing the situation and prescribing the remedy. I have tried to move among all groups belonging to as few as possible in order that I might be the servant of all. It has been and still is a rich and rewarding experience, for in this day of apostasy there are many precious souls all over the land who fear the Lord and speak often one to another. They have many faults and failings but I had rather take Bible Christians at their worst than this world at its best. I bless God for the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.
Out of all this I have come to a fixed conclusion: the issue is simply Jesus Christ. Spurgeon said: “In the days of Paul the sum and substance of theology was Jesus Christ. I am not ashamed to vow myself a Calvinist. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist. But if you ask what is my creed, I must answer it is Jesus Christ.” One thinks of A.B. Simpson’s early years of seeking this experience and that, culminating in the conclusion so well stated in his poem, beginning,
“Once it was the blessing,
Now it is the Lord.”
How we like to make a Santa Claus of the Lord, seeking only His gifts! Happy are we when we seek the Giver rather than the gift and can both sing and pray:
“Now Thee alone I seek,
Give what is best.”
My message therefore is simply Jesus Christ. He is enough. Of course we are familiar with the fact that Christ is the Christian’s life and message, but we need to familiarize ourselves with the familiar. We assume what we ought to assert. He is the hub, but too many of us are out on our favorite spokes like owls on different limbs. When we stand at the hub all the spokes are ours. And the closer we are to the hub the closer we are to all the spokes!
Of course, I do not mean the Christ of Partyism. Some say, “I belong to Christ,” just in order to dodge issues. There was a Christ-party in Corinth along with the Paul-party, the Cephas-party and the Apollos-party. And they were as bad as the others and maybe a little worse! Christ does not exclude Paul and Cephas and Apollos, He includes them. All the Gospel preachers are ours because we are Christ’s. The only thing that is not ours is us, we are not our own, we are bought with a price.
Certainly I do not mean the Christ of modernism. That is a false Christ. My Christ is the virgin-born Son of God who lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary, atoning death, rose bodily from the grave and is coming again to reign.
Some years ago, while preaching in a small Southern town, I was walking around one afternoon meditating on the evening message. I became impressed that I needed to preach “Jesus Only” more than I had been doing. I remember that I asked the Lord to confirm that impression by giving me one soul that night. Evening came and I preached. I gave the invitation but no one responded. As I pronounced the benediction, I thought, “Lord, where is the soul I asked for?” Before the “amen” was reached a downpour of rain set in, so that the people could not get home. A man came to me and asked that we might pray together. We went to a small room and there he received Christ as his Saviour. I have thought of that incident many times since and have tried to be true to the impression it confirmed.
There is only one safe and sure center of Christian experience, doctrine and testimony and that is Jesus Christ. Stand at any other point, no matter how good, and you will become lopsided. Stand with Him and you keep your balance, for by Him all things consist.
By Him All Things Consist
When Paul declared in Ephesians that “Christ filleth all in all” and in Colossians that “Christ is all and in all,” he was not merely giving us pious phrases to roll under our tongues; he was stating the fixed and fundamental fact of the Allness of Jesus Christ. Christ was everything to Paul. To the Corinthians he had written, “I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” To the Galatians he wrote: “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.” To the Ephesians he wrote of Him who “filleth all in all,” and to the Philippians he declared, “To me to live is Christ.”
Writing to the Colossians, he met an outbreak of heresy not so much by pointing out its errors, although he did that, as by presenting the Lord Jesus Christ as “the image of the invisible God,” “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” “Christ, who is our life,” “Christ, all and in all.”
It has been a long time since Colossians was written, but there is the same tendency to belittle our Lord. Thousands of Christians localize Him in their thinking either to Palestine a long time ago or at the Father’s right hand now. One thinks of the preacher, back from a trip to the Holy Land, who bored everybody by continually relating it. Finally, an old preacher observed, “I’d rather walk with Christ five minutes now than five years where He has been!” We need the sweep of Paul’s vision to see Christ past, present, and future. No wonder so many Christians are pale, sickly, anemic: they do not know what a Christ they have. If Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and Ending, Author and Finisher of our faith, if by Him all things consist, it follows that everything centers and converges in Him.
By Him creation consists. “For by him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created by him and for him” (Col. 1:16). How many Christians ever think of Christ as the One “by whom all things are created,” as Colossians puts it; “by whom all things were made: as John puts it; “by whom God made the worlds,” as Hebrews put it? Why did God make the universe, anyway? He made it that one day Christ might be all in all, that one day, from tiniest electron to mightiest planet, it might glorify Jesus. Scientists cannot give the reason for the universe: Christ is the reason. Creation is now enslaved in corruption, but one day it will display the glory of Christ, the bondage of sin will be broken, the Sons of God be manifested. And Christ not only created the universe and is its object but He sustains it now. The very existence of each of us, to say nothing of our salvation, depends on Him. Without Him the universe would fall apart.
By Him redemption consists. In order to conform men to the image of His Son, God gave His Son. There is no salvation in any other.
By Him the Gospel consists. The Gospel is simply the good news about Jesus, that He came, died, and rose again. It is not a program, plan, or philosophy that saves, but a Person. It takes a Person to reach persons, a Life to reach lives. The Gospel is a personal matter: “HE shall save His people from THEIR sins.” “I if I be lifted up will draw all men unto ME.”
By Him the Bible consists. True, we see Christ in the light of the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Him. But we can see the Scriptures only in the light of Christ. He is the Key to the Scriptures. He expounded unto His disciples in all the Scriptures the things concerning HIMSELF. All roads lead to Him throughout the Book. Someone has said that the Pentateuch gives us the foreshadowings of Christ; the Prophets, the foretellings of Christ; the Psalms, the feelings of Christ; the Gospels the facts of Christ; the epistles, the fruits of Christ.
By Him the church consists. “God gave him to be head over all things to the church which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22,23). We are married to Him, members of His Body. Any group that feeds on itself and not on Christ is a monstrosity, for it is a headless body.
By Him doctrine consists. Some Christians become disciples of a phrase instead of a person, they harp on one string and ride one hobby. Some get off on a tangent on sanctification, for instance. But sanctification, strictly speaking, is not just a doctrine: Christ is our sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). Spurgeon said, “Holiness is not the way to Christ; Christ is the way to holiness.” Better still, Christ is our holiness.
Some make the Holy Spirit the figurehead of movements, but the Spirit testifies not of Himself but of Christ (John 15:26). In that classic passage on the Spirit, John 7:37-39, it is Jesus who is at the center of the stage: “If any man thirst, let him come unto ME and drink. He that believeth on ME, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water. This spake HE of the Spirit which they that believe on HIM should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that JESUS was not yet glorified.” Any supposed experience of the Spirit that draws attention to itself and not to Christ is not to be trusted.
By Him the resurrection consists. Jesus said to Martha, “Your brother shall rise again.” She said, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Martha was orthodox, but she needed to move from the doctrinal to the personal. So Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” The resurrection is not something to believe but Someone to believe.
By Him faith consists. It is not the quantity or the quality but the object of our faith that matters. Saving faith is faith in Christ, not merely believing things about Christ. The man with the best nerves is the man least conscious of his nerves, and the man with the best faith is the man least conscious of his faith but most conscious of his Christ.
By Him all Christian experience consists. The Christian life is simply Christ, the indwelling and outliving Christ. “To me to live is Christ.” The victorious life or the abundant or deeper life, whatever you choose to call it, is just Christ, more of Christ and less of self. He is our Life, not just a teacher of how to live.
By Him separation consists. He is the Great Divider, who came not to send peace but a sword, and He must separate us. Separation is not just quitting things, it is going unto HIM without the camp bearing HIS reproach. When He was on earth, there was often a division of the people on account of Him, and He still divides men today. But there are also those who cause division among us; they are to be watched and avoided.
The main thing about the Lord’s return is the Lord. Some are looking merely for something to happen, not for Someone to come. We are not looking for a program of events but for a Person.
By Him Christian fellowship consists. “Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). I have heard of a church with a “JESUS ONLY” sign in front. One night a storm blew out the first three letters and left “US ONLY.” That has happened in more ways than one these days. The basis of fellowship is Jesus Christ. You cannot get the saints together at any other point. We are already one in Him. We have so many cliques now that an appropriate greeting would be, “How are you clique-ing?” Some saints have no testimony, only an argument. The mark of true fellowship is “love to all the saints,” which springs from “faith in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:4).
Indeed by Him testimony consists. We are His witnesses, not His lawyers. “We preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord.” There is too much sermonizing and too little witnessing. People do not come to Christ at the end of an argument. Simon Peter comes to Jesus because Andrew goes after him with a testimony.
By Him our fruitfulness consists. “He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is not what is done for Him but by Him that counts. I wonder how much of our church activity really proceeds from Him. We think it depends on us, our effort, our organization, our enthusiasm. We need to get our eyes off our efficiency and on His sufficiency.
By Him the answer to every need consists. God has promised to supply all our need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. If we need victory we can reign in life through Christ Jesus. If we need peace, the peace of God will garrison our hearts through Christ Jesus. If we need wisdom, He is our wisdom. If we need strength, we can do all things through Christ. Like the hungry multitude of old, we need not depart from Him for anything.
By Him the future consists. For the believer, the prospect is not merely going to heaven but departing to be WITH CHRIST. It is His presence that makes heaven so glorious. And it is separation from Him that is hell’s worst feature. It is all the difference between “Come, ye blessed of my Father” and “Depart, I never knew you.” To be cut off from Him who is life cannot but be unending death; to be cut off from the Light can be but eternal darkness. The most glorious thing about heaven is that we shall be like HIM.
By Him the future of the universe created by Him and consisting by Him will be consummated in Him. In the dispensation of the fulness of times God will gather together in one all things in Christ, in heaven, and on earth, even in Him.
The little girl who, failing to reassemble a torn up map of the United States, discovered that on the reverse side was a picture of George Washington and that by putting his picture together she also assembled the map, illustrates a profounder truth. Nothing can be assembled, either one’s life or the universe, apart from Christ. But when we know Him all things else find their place, for by Him all things consist, and we are complete in Him.