What is Your Object?
What is your object in life? This is one of the gravest questions which anyone can put to himself. Remember that it is the object which stamps the character. What was it that gave character to Abraham’s journey to Mount Moriah and to his actions when he arrived there? (Gen. 22: 1–18). What was it that drew the attention of heaven to the scene? Was it the fact that a father was to offer up his son as a sacrifice? No, thousands of fathers have sacrificed their sons on the altars of false gods in the name of religious devotion. So what was it that distinguished the act of the father of the faithful? It was this––and note it well––‘For now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me’ (see v12). God was Abraham’s object.
I once knew a man who prayed for seven hours a day. He was on his knees at dawn, and, after a busy day, he was on his knees again until midnight. I have seen him in agonies of devotion. His flesh was worn from his bones by constant kneeling. In every way he seemed a blameless, amiable person. Those who observed the course of his daily life could not put their finger on a single moral blemish in his conduct. Yet when I approached him to speak about the Lord, he shrunk from me, and refused to listen. In a word, he was devoted to his religion, but he hated Christ.
Again, a man may devote himself to philanthropy. He may devote his life and his fortune to the objects of benevolence, and make great sacrifices in order to carry out his schemes. He may fix the wondering gaze of millions upon his career, and all the while, be a total stranger to Christ.
Again, a man may devote himself to what may seem to be the work of the Lord. He may seem to be an industrious student of Scripture or an active, earnest, self–denying evangelist. He may go out to the foreign missionary field, leaving, in devotion to his work, his country, his family and his home. He may do all this and much more, and yet not exhibit one atom of true Christian devotion simply because Christ was not his object in all that in which he was engaged.
All this is deeply solemn. We may be actively religious, and yet not have Christ before our souls at all! A man may start in a work which, to all outward appearances, may seem a real work of God, and yet it may turn out in the end that his heart was engrossed with the work to the total exclusion of Christ as an object. True Christian devotion is embodied in that brief sentence, “for me to live [is] Christ” (Phil. 1: 21). Paul did not say “For me to live is serving”, or “For me to live is Christianity”, or “benevolence”, or “helping others”. It is not that he loved these things less, but that he loved Christ more. This makes all the difference. I may wear myself out with prayers, fasts and vigils. I may give away all I have to the poor. I may give my body to be burnt (see 1 Cor. 13: 3), and yet there may not be in all these things one particle of genuine devotion to Christ.
Is this not a grave consideration in this day of frantic religious activity, forms of piety, and schemes of benevolence and charity? Should we not pause and seriously address the question of what our real object is? Is it not true that one can spend a whole life in the exercise of religion and philanthropy, and yet live and die a stranger to that One who is God’s only object––Christ Jesus? Alas! The truth of this is illustrated in the history of millions. All around us the god of this world is blinding the minds of countless multitudes. With what does he most effectively blind them? With schemes of benevolence and forms of piety,––in short, with Christless religion.
It is not only amid the haunts of vice in all its abominable forms that God’s faithful messengers are called to raise a warning voice, but on the broad and well–trodden highway of religious profession, along which multitudes are rushing to eternal perdition. The Devil’s grand object is to keep Christ out of the heart, and he does not care by what means he attains this object. He will use man’s lusts, or he will use his religious feelings. Forms of vice and forms of piety are all alike to him. He hates Christ, and will seek by any means to keep souls away from Him. He will let a man be religious, benevolent, and moral, but he will not, if he can help it, let him be a Christian. Furthermore, when anyone has, through grace, become a true Christian, Satan’s one aim is to turn his eye away from Christ. He will seek to engage him with objects professedly Christian in order to divert him from the only object that really forms the Christian––Christ Himself. He will give him lots of work to do, and get him a name as a most wonderful workman, and yet, by means of this very work, he will sap the foundation of the man’s Christianity. He will so deceive and pervert his heart that, in process of time, he will become occupied with himself and his work, instead of with Christ.
How important then it is to have Christ as the one object before the heart! Christ is the great standard. Everything is to be regulated and valued with reference to Him. The question is not, How much work am I doing? but, To whom is it done? Searching question! “Then shall the King say to those on his right hand, Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from [the] world’s foundation: for I hungered, and ye gave me to eat; I thirsted, and ye gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was ill, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came to me … Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me” (Matt. 25: 34–36, 40) Here lies the secret of all acceptable service, and all true devotion. We may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, but if the King cannot say, “Ye did it to me”, it will be valueless.
What a privilege it is to be allowed to do any little thing for Christ! It is this which gives real value to all that we may be called to do in this world, whether it be sweeping the streets or evangelising multitudes. Christian service is that which is done to Christ. Nothing else deserves the name, nothing else will be so regarded in God’s account, nothing else will pass as genuine metal through the fire of that great testing day which is rapidly approaching. All the thoughts of God centre around the Lord Jesus. It is His eternal purpose to exalt and glorify that name. The whole universe will yet be called upon to find in Christ its central sun. The beams of His glory shall very soon shine forth over the whole creation. The Christian is called to anticipate that marvellous day, and to make the Lord Jesus his one absorbing, commanding object in all things now. If he gives to the needy, it is to be in the name of Christ. If he preaches the Gospel it is to be with his eye firmly fixed on Christ, and for the glory of His name. Will this contract the sphere or measure of his benevolence? Will this lessen his interest in the work of evangelism? Quite the reverse. It will greatly enlarge the former, and intensify the latter. It will elevate the tone of his spirit in the work, and impart stability in all his service in that it will keep his heart and his mind occupied with the very highest object––the Lord Himself.
I may enter upon a certain line of work, under the influence of excitement, or in imitation of others, or to get a name for myself. I may work with an energy and zeal which puts others to shame. I may be greatly looked up to, flattered and applauded. My name may appear as a celebrity in all the religious journals of the day, and yet, after all, the Lord may not be able to say as to a single act of all my service “You did it to me”.
On the other hand, a man may pursue a path of quiet, unobtrusive service, unknown and unnoticed, and not wishing to be noticed. The lanes, the alleys, the prisons, the hospitals are visited, the widow’s tear dried, and her wants supplied. The orphan is thought of and the children of toil and misery looked after. The precious news of salvation is sounded in many a home and the Gospel tract slipped into many a hand. All the while little is heard or known down here of the doer of these precious and most fragrant acts of service and self–sacrifice. Yet the odour goes up to the throne, the record is above, and it is all engraved on the Father’s heart.
Who knew what was in Abraham’s heart when he started on that journey to Moriah? Who knew what he was going to do? Who indeed would ever have known it, if the Holy Spirit had not recorded it on the inspired page? “I and the lad will go yonder and worship … and they went both of them together” (Gen. 22: 5–6). “thou fearest God, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only [son], from me” (v12). Abraham was engrossed with God Himself, from first to last. From the moment he rose from his bed early that morning until he stretched forth his hand to take the knife, his soul was absorbed with the living God. It was this that gave holy elevation to the entire scene. It was done to God.
Whatever is done to Christ will be remembered and rewarded; whatever is not will sink into eternal oblivion. It is not quantity but the quality of the work that will be tried and made manifest before the judgement seat of Christ. Look at the parable of the labourers in Matt. 20: 1–16. The workmen who were first hired were the only ones with whom an agreement was made; all the rest worked in the confidence that their master would give them what was right. If any of the first set of workmen had been asked during the day “What are you to get as a reward for your work?” they would have said they were working for a denarius. If any of the others, however, had been asked the same question, they would have said “I don’t know, but I am sure the Master will do what is right”. This makes all the difference. The moment I work for reward, it ceases to be Christian service. It is not that Christian service will not be rewarded for it most certainly will, but true Christian service is rendered apart from all thought of reward. “The love of the Christ” not the hope of reward “constrains us” (2 Cor. 5: 14). Why did the wicked and slothful bondman hide his talent in the earth (Matt. 25: 18)? Because he did not know his Lord. Had he known Him, he would have loved Him, and served Him for love’s sake, which is the only service that Christ values.
It is the Christian’s joy to be able to render any little service to that Lord whom he loves. Nor will it be a question with him as to the kind of service, or where he is to labour, or the amount of the work. It is enough for him if his Lord can say “You have wrought a good work toward me” (see Matt. 26: 10). It does not matter in the least what we are doing, provided it is done directly to Christ with the eye fixed on Him and the heart filled with Him. It is this that imparts value to every little act of service. The smallest thing done in love to the Lord Jesus, and in singleness of heart to Him, will never be forgotten: “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in [my] name, because ye are Christ’s, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Mark 9: 41).
It would be nice to dwell a little longer on this blessed theme, but I must close. I will leave you with that solemn question with which I began: “What is your real object?” This is a weighty question, and I look to the Spirit of God to give it weight in the heart and conscience of writer and reader alike.