Who Art Thou, Lord?
I will be delighted to see Paul when Jesus comes and we all get together around Him. I can’t blame a Jew for wanting to see Abraham, because he was God’s chosen vessel to start things for the Jew, but a Christian I am sure is more interested in seeing the man Jesus picked as a choice one through whom He especially sent His Gospel to the Gentiles. Jesus speaking to Ananias in a vision said, “He is a chosen vessel unto me to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
What Paul Looked Like
I have tried to picture to myself what Paul looked like, and I find it hard, but I know he was a bundle of nerves and every nerve jumping for Jesus. I know he had a great brain and every bit of the gray matter grinding out the truth in such shape for those who listened or read that they could not help but see the truth in Christ Jesus if they wanted truth at all. If he ever had any looks, he soon lost them, for the enemies of his Savior found their greatest joy in beating him. But what cared he for the stripes, the stones, and the ridicule: Paul had seen Jesus on the way to Damascus, the living, glorious Lord. From that moment there was no argument between him and Jesus. He asked but two questions, the question of our text: “Who art thou, Lord?” and the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest”—and the question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Then he was off and at the work at once of obeying every command.
A Great Change
Here is a heart that the previous moment hated the very name of Jesus Christ, and now he is gladly submitting his whole life to Jesus. A little while before Jesus to him was an impostor, now He is the Lord Jesus Christ, and this by what line of reasoning please tell me? It is not by a line of reasoning, but by the wonderful revelation of Jesus Himself.
Reason is a splendid gift, but at best it is slow and oftentimes misled, and weak. God does not throw reason aside, but He does not limit Himself in our behalf to our poor reasons but by revelation He makes Jesus real to the heart who really hungers to know the truth.
The Spirit’s Work
It is the work of the third person of the trinity to reveal Jesus to us. As we read God’s account of His Son, and His gift of life through Him, the Spirit will whisper to our spirits that this account is true. As surely as our taste is used by our body in our selection of food, God’s Spirit will volunteer His aid in witnessing to the truth if we will not resist His work. He is called the Spirit of Truth. John says of what he himself wrote by the Spirit concerning Jesus, “These things are written that ye might believe and that believing ye might have life.” Life in Jesus comes from belief, and the Spirit of God will witness to the record of God’s Son if you will but honestly consider the record, and lead you to belief as surely as he appeared to Paul. He will not appear to you in a vision, but His Spirit will put His witness within you to the truth and to the fact that through your belief in His name you have life from above.
Jesus did not love Paul more than He does us because He appeared to Paul so wonderfully. He appeared to Paul for our sakes, and because He loved us as much as he did Paul. This day in which we live is a dispensation of faith, not of manifestation of Jesus in His glorified body. That will come at the close of this present dispensation, and it is to be expected any moment, for this age where Jesus has been offered to men by faith so long is at its ending. Let me say, for example of love without respect of persons, that I love a million people yonder in the dark lands and I want them to have the truth. Now if I select one hundred young people and train them for four years and give them a thorough knowledge of the truth, and then send them forth to endure hardship in carrying this truth to the million, I cannot be accused of loving the one hundred more than the million. I am simply specializing with the hundred in order that the million may have it. Paul might even be predestined to their task, but it is for our sakes, not his alone. Wonderfully Jesus was manifested to Paul, and his suffering to carry the gospel forth after this manifestation that we might have it is a cause for great rejoicing.
We Know Him
We have not seen Jesus but we know Him and love Him. We cannot now say “Who art thou, Lord?” for we know Him as our Savior, our Keeper, and coming King. Who met us in the darkest hour of our life and brought in the light? Jesus. Who showed us the awful condition of our heart when we heard His word, and then showed us Himself as our righteousness? Jesus. Who is near now to succor us when Satan tempts us? Jesus. Who whispers, “Be not afraid,” when the waves dash high and fear comes creeping into the heart? Jesus. When our heart would faint, who comes with a word of hope and a strong flood of His own life? Jesus. Who sings with the blast of all the heavenly horns, above the dark, cold hour of death, a song of victory and triumph? Jesus, this same one whom Paul met and whom some day we shall see face to face! This same Jesus, the one we do not see now but “whom having not seen we love.”
A Change of Heart
Yes, this poor blind heart can be made to see Jesus, and be sure of Him. The question of the text can be put away and we may know. I believe in a change of heart, from a heart of stone that will not feel God to a heart of flesh that can be made susceptible to His slightest touch. To this susceptible heart He can manifest Himself.
Jesus is a person. He has always had personality. That is why Joseph could not be His father. Our personality is a thing connected with birth, and dependent on father and mother. He needed only a body, a human body, to wrap about His personality, that He might be made manifest in our flesh. Paul saw this person still alive, he heard Him speak. He saw Him as the victor over death. Personality can reveal itself, and Jesus, the eternal Person, can reveal Himself to the heart hungry for Him.
No Rest Without Him
No soul is at rest until it meets Jesus. The emptiness of life without Jesus leaves the soul lonely though there should be a million beings about you. That is why the folks are blowing their brains out day after day. God says, “The Lord taketh pleasure in His people,” and it is a sure thing that without Him the soul will never find pleasure. It may find many thrills, but they pass. A fountain of living pleasure can be found in Jesus only. He can become to you also “the one altogether lovely.” Do you ever stop to ask yourself, “Where am I going and what will I find when I get there?” if you are living without Jesus. Some day you’ll lay down all you have sought and find that it is of the earth, and you will find the chase for earthly things nets you nothing at last.
The Wild Rush
You are like the man who rushes down the avenue knocking folks down as he runs to catch the car. He makes it and stands on the back end bothering the conductor about the time the car is supposed to pass the depot. He reaches the depot and, with a rush, gets his ticket and catches the hind end of the train with a desperate effort. He walks the aisles of the cars, bites his nails, wears out the time-table and the brakeman’s and conductor’s patience, and finally lands at the town. He steps hopefully to the platform, and looks about. Not a sign can he find of the ones he came to see. No one meets him. He is alone.
You are rushing at an awful clip to eternity—and tell me: will Jesus be there to greet you? Oh, but Paul is glad right now up there in the glory that he stopped in his rush on the Damascus road that day and met Jesus, and said, “Who art thou, Lord?” and go the soul-satisfying answer: ”I am Jesus.” You may have that same answer this very hour. What do you say? Will you seek Him? Will you?
If you ever learn to know Jesus, you’ll be glad to know others that know Him. See what Jesus tells Paul to do to find what else he must do to learn more about Him. Jesus sends him to another man who knew Him. This man knew spiritual things, and he could tell Paul a great deal and lead him to other blessings. This man, in other words, “knew the language.” You meet so many folks these days who call themselves Christians that can’t speak the language. There was a time when if I heard a man shout I wanted to get out of the way. He was talking a language I knew nothing about. I couldn’t see what a man had to shout about. But I met Jesus after that and now, bless God, I know what the folks are shouting about. The first time I got my father to come watch me play in a football game, he thought the whole crowd was going crazy, and he couldn’t see why we all jumped around like we did, and he quit and went home, but when he had learned the language, or knew the game, it was all the guards could do to keep him back in the grand stand. If you’ve ever been in a foreign country where they couldn’t speak your language you know the joy of getting among your kind again. Paul was killing the folks once who professed the name of Jesus, and in a few moments after he saw Jesus, it was all changed and he was on his way to go to the house of one of them and find out more about Jesus. Paul says afterward that he held as a proof of the certainty that he had passed from death unto life the fact that he now loved the brethren. “Oh, how you’ll love Him when you know Him”—and also you’ll love those who love Him. Their language will be your language, and their praise of the same One that you have found and loved will make your own heart leap.
He Works the Same
There is another joy when you have had Him revealed to you as Lord and that is to see how He reveals Himself in the same way to others no matter where they come from over this round world. While I was preaching in the tabernacle in San Francisco at the time of the Exposition, I met Christians from such a variety of places; I shook hands with them from China, India, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and there were two especially happy fellows who were full-blooded Indians, yet all these from all lands talked about the same person, and the same language was in their hearts, and they all knew that each one had met Him, and that it was Jesus Himself that was giving us a warm heart place for one another.
Not only does Jesus answer the question in the text by saying who He is, but He shocks us first as part of His revelation by telling us who we are. He told Paul: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” That last word let Paul know right away that the one who was talking to him knew just who he was and just what he had been doing and what he was doing just then. Sure as you live, Jesus will prove to you that He knows all about you, and you’ll know you are talking to Him, for no living soul could call the turn on you but He, and tell you all about yourself.
Almost to Blows
Maybe you’ll feel like the fellow that walked down the aisle in a white heat of temper to thrash the evangelist. “I’ll smash your face,” he shouted. “My wife told you all about me, and she primed you up and then got me here and you shot it at me. I’ll fix you for that.”
“If that’s so, I’ll let you smash my face,” said the man of God.
“Well, it’s so,” he shouted.
“Wait a minute,” said the evangelist. “Give me one chance to save my face.”
“I’ll give you nothing but the best beating you ever got in all your life,” he yelled, and made a rush, but some of the friends held him.
“Don’t hold him, friends,” said the evangelist. “Let him do what he wishes if I am guilty. Is your wife here, my dear man?”
“Of course she’s here, and you know it and have fixed this thing up with her.” He was raging.
“Just a moment more, friend, before you strike. Let me ask you, can you take your wife’s word? Does she tell the truth?”
“Yes, she does, and I pity the man who says she doesn’t.”
“Well, then, bring her up here, and let me ask her a question.”
“This is my wife behind me here, pleading with me to let you alone. You know her, all right.”
“If that woman you are holding now by the arm,” said the evangelist, “is your wife, I can truthfully say that I never saw her before, and that I never heard of you before in my life by word of letter or of mouth. What do you say, madam?”
“I never met you, sir,” she answered, and then turning to her husband she said, “Oh, my dear, believe the Lord; He knows you, and He was talking straight to you through human lips tonight.”
The man’s face was a study for a moment. The anger all went. With real humility he asked pardon of the evangelist, and taking his wife by the arm, he turned and knelt at the front pew, and surrendered to the Savior of his soul against whom he had been fighting through the years.
Yes, He shows us that He knows us thoroughly and there’s a great shocking proof in it that reveals to us that it is Jesus who speaks to us.
Paul knew He was alive from the dead and was the Son of God as He claimed because he saw Him and talked with Him, but he also believed in Him because of what he saw Him do in raising Him up when the crowd had stoned him and left him for dead, and he arose by the power of Christ and returned into the city. Then He delivered the crew in the shipwreck as Paul prayed to Him. Yes, Paul believed not only because He had seen but because in the darkest hours of suffering for Jesus, Jesus was there to comfort Paul’s heart.
I have never seen Jesus but say, I won’t let Paul beat me out in shouting out the testimony that Jesus stands by and comforts when all other comforts flee. He is there, I tell you; I know it. When the temptations sweep over like a tempest, praise God, Jesus stands by and says: “Don’t let the old boy bluff you. Satan is a liar. He never made good in his life. Everything he offers is covered with the poison of death. I will keep you. Trust me and forget fear.” Say, you can just feel the new backbone being made as Jesus talks to you, and you go after the devil like a dog after a cat, and resist him in Jesus’ name, and the victory is won, where always before you met Jesus it used to be defeat, a grip, then a toe-hold and another defeat.
Listen to Him
He came to deliver Paul from the awful delusion that He was an impostor. And He comes to you just now willing to do the same to you, and to prove to you that He has borne the cross for you. There is great condemnation resting upon you if you do not listen to His pleading with you. Paul was true to what he saw. Say, are you true to the voice of Jesus calling to you now? You would call it almost unthinkable if Paul had turned Jesus down after he met Him on the way to Damascus, but what are you doing with all the light that the Spirit of God is throwing around, and the voice of Jesus speaking to you through this sermon, through His Word and through condemnation because of your sin? Paul went out and wore his life out telling what he saw, and died, being true to Jesus. Now listen: Are you square with Jesus now? Have you listened to Him? If you were square with Him you’d mind Him. You would confess Him before men and travel with the crowd that loves Him.
Did Not Ask for Explanation
Paul didn’t ask Jesus to explain a lot of details. He took the revelation and took it like a child, and walked away, being led where the Lord told him to go for further information, but if Paul had stopped to ask all the questions that the hypocritical high-brow crowd of our day is asking before they’ll even hear you on anything supernatural, he would have fought the light as they are fighting it and become a blind leader of the blind, and fallen into the same ditch into which they are headed. That ditch is the ditch of doubt, made from the muck and mud of modernism, and covered with the waters of infidelity, on which is the sickening scum of natural religion. On its surface float the bubbles made from the breath of those who have sunk beneath its waters as they made fun of the virgin birth of Jesus, the miracles that He wrought, and laughed to scorn the blood as God’s way of cleansing, and shrugged their shoulders and laughed again with derision at His resurrection. But Paul was true to the revelation, and went right on talking about it, even though they put him in prison, and beat him, and finally killed him. Jesus can reveal Himself to you and you’ll know. Oh, may God increase the tribe of the know-sos. We’ve got speculators galore, and at high salaries, too, but they are like the wheat speculators, somebody else has to raise the crop. Praise God for Paul. He certainly made trouble for the devil wherever he went. He plowed deep, and God gave him a great crop. He’ll give any man a crop now if he’ll plant the truth seed as it is in Jesus on the cross and out of the tomb into glory, instead of this high-brow hemp seed that only produces a crop of ropes as hanging material for the tribe of Judas which the speculators beget.
If I can take in the color, and perfume and delicate form of the rose without a course in botany, I can take in Jesus into my heart without having to cross-question God on the witness stand and try to put Him under a microscope before I believe Him. Paul caught the vision. Jesus is offering you yours. Will you have it or will you speculate? Will you say, “Who art though, Lord?” as Paul did, willing to obey, or will you say, “Who art thou, Lord?” with the English dude attitude, as he adjusts his monocle for closer inspection, which latter is the attitude of our modernism? God says, “To this man will I look that is humble and of a contrite (cut up) heart and that trembleth at My word.” Oh, take your place humbly at His fee as Paul did, and He will manifest Himself to you.
It will not be simply an emotionalism. Here is where some of the speculators make their woeful mistake. They think when they see folks converted that it is simply some sort of religious excitement. There may be emotion and very strong emotion, but surely this is permissible over a very wonderful fact. Now if it is simply emotionalism that does not arise from the realization of some great fact it will very soon wear away. Even if it is emotion that arises from some fact, if it is only emotion as you repeat the fact the emotion will wear away.
Psychologists will tell you that sensations experienced at the time of any great event will grow less and less until in most cases they will be forgotten. The mother even will forget the agony of child birth. A horrible scare will bring vivid memories at first but it will wear away. But when a man is truly converted and the Spirit whispers to his soul, “I am Jesus,” this will not wear away, but will become brighter and clearer and confirmed by all subsequent experiences, and his joy, says Jesus, “the world cannot give and the world cannot take away.” It is not an emotion only. It cannot be called a sensation only. When a man is converted he lives in the consciousness of the presence of another person, with the joy of this person as his joy. You cannot explain it by psychology, for Paul says since this wonderful event of seeing Jesus, “The life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” And again, “Not I, but Christ that dwelleth in me.” Here are two persons living together in one breast, a real vine and branch life, and feeling, emotion alone, will not explain it.
A vision of Jesus and life has changed. “Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.”
Can We See God?
I heard the story somewhere of a young boy who had become quite anxious to see God. He had heard much talk about God, so at an evening hour when his father rand himself were alone, for the mother had passed away, the boy ventured to ask the father the question that was bounding in his young heart, Papa, can a person see God?”
“No, my son,” the father said carelessly, reading ahead in his paper.
“But I’m very anxious to see God, papa,” the boy continued.
Quite a stern rebuke came from the a father that completely silenced the boy.
A year or so later the minister called and was entertained at dinner. The boy was sure his chance for an answer to his soul’s query had come at last, so he made a careful plan and when the father was out of the room, he unburdened his heart to the minister. The parson started in on a lengthy explanation of God and space and heaven and human eyes, and ended by saying, “No, no, no my boy, never ask so simple a question now again. We cannot see God and live.” The father returned in time to catch the last words and to give the boy a sharp reprimand. The bow swore then and there to himself that he’d drop the idea and ask no one else.
Two years slipped by, but never the longing in his heart to see God. He chanced to be near the bank of the river as an old fisherman went by one evening and the old fellow stopped to talk. One or two more such chance meetings and the boy and the old fisherman were fast friends. Every evening after school the boy would make his way through the woods to where he knew the old man was fishing up stream. Together they would gather up the lines near sunset and float down the river with their catch to the little town wharf. This had gone on for some time when the father heard of it and was about to put a stop to it.
“I don’t know this old man, and I don’t want you out with him, my son,” said the father.
“But he’s a good man, papa,” said the boy, and when the father asked him how he knew, he replied: “Well, papa, he’s got a big heart, ‘cause when we came down the river tonight he was crying.”
“What was he crying about, son?”
“I don’t know, but he was looking at the sun setting through the trees, and he wouldn’t take his eyes off of it, but I could see the tears, and I think he’s a good man.”
“All right,” the father replied, “the signs are good. I’ll ask about him in town.”
The boy was in the boat the next night, flowing down with his old partner. The sunset was more beautiful than ever, and the atmosphere was warm and dreamy. There the old man was again, his face turned toward the sun, and the big tears rolling down his cheeks. He wiped them away and gazed so far on beyond the trees, so the boy thought. It had not been the first time he had through, and his old question rose urgently to his lips. He had sworn never to ask another person, but then he felt the old man would understand, and he dared to voice it, though the question came in fear and trembling from his lips and reached the old man just as he was wiping away another tear: “Can anybody see God? Please tell me?”
The old man gazed on out across the trees where the glory was bursting between the hanging clouds.
The boy’s hand was tugging at his arm. “Say,” came the frightened, boyish voice, “didn’t you hear me? I asked you something I want to know, oh, a lot. Can anybody see God?”
Again, the old man was silent, but his face was lighted up with a heavenly light and the tears were flowing freely. The boy timidly ventured again peeping around and up into the tear-stained eyes. “I said, I said, can any—body—see—God?” For answer the old man took the little face between his hands, looked deep into those frank eyes, and then turning his face up again to the sun, began saying, “Glory! Glory to God!”
“Why you are speaking his name,” cried the boy, with delight. “Can anybody see Him? Tell me, do you see Him?”
Softly, and with deep feeling, the answer reached the boy’s ears, never to be forgotten, “Yes, dear boy. It’s gettin’ so I don’t see anything else.”
Paul saw Jesus, and from that hour he never saw anything else.