“Where art thou?”—Gen. 3:9
This is the first recorded question that God ever asked of man. You will find that question in Gen. 3:9, “Where art thou?” God asked the question of Adam. Adam had sinned, and on the evening of that awful day of the first sin, the voice of God in its majesty, rolling down the avenues of the Garden of Eden. Adam had often heard God’s voice before, and the voice of God had been the sweetest music to Adam up till this day. Adam knew no greater joy than that of glad communion with his Creator and his Heavenly Father. But now, all was different, and as the voice of God was heard rolling through the Garden, Adam was filled with fear and tried to hide himself. That is the history of every son of Adam from that day till this. When sin enters our hearts and lives, we seek to hide from God. Every sinner tries to hide from God’s presence and the all-seeing eye. That accounts for a very large share of the skepticism and infidelity and the agnosticism and atheism of our day. It is sinful man trying to hide from a holy God.
Men will give you many reasons why they are skeptics, many reasons why they are unbelievers and agnostics and atheists. Still, in the great majority of cases, the real reason is this—men hope by the denial of the existence of God to hide from the discomfort of God’s acknowledged presence. That also accounts for very much of the neglect of the Bible. People will tell you that they do not read their Bibles because they have so much else to read, that they do not read their Bibles because they are not interested in the Bible, and that it is a dull and stupid book to them; but the real cause of man’s neglect of Bible study is this: the Bible brings God near to us as no other book does, and men are uneasy in the conscious presence of God, so they neglect the book that brings God near. This also accounts for much of the absenteeism from the house of God and its services. People will give you many reasons why they do not attend church; they will tell you they cannot dress well enough to attend church, will tell you that they are too busy and too tired to attend church; they will tell you that the services of God’s house are dull and uninteresting, but in the great majority of cases the reason why men and women, old and young, habitually absent themselves from the services of God’s house is that the house of God brings God near and makes men uncomfortable in sin. Their desire to hide from God, more or less distinct, leads them to stay away from the house of God. But Adam did not succeed in hiding from God. Neither will you succeed. No man ever succeeded in hiding from God. God said to Adam, “Where art thou?” and Adam had to come from his hiding-place, meet God face to face, and declare all his sin fully. Eventually, no matter how carefully we have hidden from God, in due time, every man and woman in this building will have to come from their hiding-place and meet the all-holy God face to face and make a full declaration of just where they stand in His presence.
God is putting the question of the text to every man and woman in these last days, to every Christian, and to everyone who is not a Christian. “Where art thou?” Where do you stand as regards spiritual and eternal things? Where do you stand as regards God, as regards eternal life, as regards righteousness, as regards Christ, as regard eternity? “Where art thou?”
Every wise person should be glad to face and answer that question. Every truly intelligent person desires to know just where he is. In business, every wise businessman desires to know just where he stands financially. In our country, at just this time of year, every careful businessman takes an inventory of his stock-in-trade, casts up his accounts, and finds out precisely what are his credits and precisely what are his debts, and how much his assets exceed or fall below his liabilities. He wants to know just where he stands. He may discover due to his scrutiny that he does not stand as well as he thought he did. He may find that he is in debt when he hopes that his capital will exceed his liabilities. If that is true, he wants to know it in order that he may conduct his business accordingly. Many a man has made a shipwreck in business through unwillingness to face facts and find out just where he stood. Just as we would rather not face a complete financial shipwreck, we would rather not face a complete spiritual shipwreck either. We will plunge into utter and eternal ruin.
Every man wants to know where he stands physically. He wants to know what is the condition of his lungs, his heart, his stomach, his nerves. He may be worse off than he thinks he is; he may think his heart is sound when his heart is defective. But if that be the case, he wants to know it because if he knows that his heart is defective, he will not subject it to the strain that he otherwise would. Many a man lies today in a premature grave who might be doing good work on earth; he was not willing to find out his real condition and act accordingly.
How shall we consider this great question?
First of all, we should consider it seriously. It is not a question to trifle with. It is a singular fact that men and women who are intelligent and sensible about everything else, who would not think of trifling with the great financial questions of the day, or with great social problems when they come to this great question of eternity, will treat it as a joke. I don’t care what your culture is, what your social position is, or what your reputation is for scholarship; you need to face this great question of your spiritual condition with the most profound earnestness and seriousness; you want to avoid playing the part of a fool.
We should consider this question honestly. Many people in our day are trying to deceive themselves, attempting to deceive others, and endeavoring to deceive God. Many in their inmost hearts know that they are wrong but are trying to persuade themselves that they are correct, attempting to persuade others that they are right, and setting out to persuade God that they are right.
Men and women, you cannot deceive God. It will do you no good to deceive anybody else; it is consummate folly to deceive yourself. The biggest fool on earth is the man who fools himself. Be honest. If you are lost, own it up; if you are on the road to destruction, acknowledge it; if you are not a Christian, say so. If you are an enemy of God, face the facts. If you are a child of the devil, admit it. Be honest, honest with yourself, honest with your fellow men, honest with God.
In the third place, we should consider the question thoroughly. Many people are honest and serious enough as far as they go, but they don’t go to the bottom of things. They are superficial. They give these tremendous questions a few moments’ thought, and then their weak minds weary, saying, “I guess I am all right; I will take my chance.” You can’t afford to guess on questions like these; we must have no probability but absolute certainty. It will not satisfy me to hope I am saved; I must know that I am saved; it will not satisfy me to hope I am a child of God; I must know that I am a child of God. It will not satisfy me to hope that I am bound for heaven; I must know that I am bound for heaven. Do not lay these questions down until you have gone to the bottom of them and know for absolute certainty just where you stand.
In the fourth place, you should consider these questions prayerfully. God tells us in His Word, and we know it from experience, that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). There is nothing that the human heart is so deceitful about as about our moral and spiritual condition. Every man and woman, by nature, is very sharp-sighted to the faults of others and very blind to their own faults. What we need is to face this question in prayer. You will never know where you stand until God shows you. Not till we pray at least the substance of David’s prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me,” and God sheds the light of His Holy Spirit into our hearts, and shows us ourselves as He sees us, will we ever know ourselves as we really are.
But, friends, there is something better than to see ourselves as others see us; that is, to see ourselves as God sees us. Oh! Let us not leave this life until we see ourselves in the light of God’s presence, as God sees us, and that will only be in answer to definite and earnest prayer. What horror it would be! Imagine that you have been a professing Christian for forty years, and on judgment day, you find out that all your life that you have never really been a Christian at all. (Matt. 7:21-23) I do not doubt that in the 2 billion Christians the world over that, there is many a man and woman who has been a professing Christian for years who have been no Christian at all because they have been doing their will, not the will of the Father. Millions of Christians in name only are not on the path of salvation.
Once more, we should consider this question Scripturally, according to the Book. God has given to you and me only one safe chart and compass to guide us on our voyage through life toward eternity. That chart and compass is the Bible, the Word of God, the book that you have had in your home, maybe you carried to church. If you steer your course according to this book, you steer safely; if you steer your course according to your own feelings, according to the speculation of the petty philosopher or the theologian, according to anything but the clear declaration of the only book of God, you steer your course to shipwreck. Any hope that is not founded on the clear, unmistakable teaching of God’s Word is absolutely worthless. Any hope founded on that book is a sure hope; any hope that is not built upon that book is not worth anything.
This will help you consider the question, “Where art thou?” First of all, Are you on the path to salvation, or are you on the path to destruction? (Matt. 7:13-14) You are one or the other. If you are trying to stand on the line, living a life that creeps up to the edges of sin, know this, the line belongs to Satan. Unless you have definitely walked with God, you are definitely lost. There are but two groups: lost sinners on the path to destruction and the saved on the path to eternal life. To which group do you belong?
Again, are you a child of God or a child of the devil? We live in a day in which many superficial thinkers tell us that all men are the children of God. That is not the teaching of the Bible, nor the teaching of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ says distinctly in John 8:44, talking to certain Jews, “Ye are of your father the devil.” And we are told in 1 John 3:10, “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.” And we are told distinctly in John 1:12, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Children of God, or children of the devil. Every one of us is either one or the other. Which are you?
Again, what kind of Christian are you if you are a professing Christian? Are you a mere formal Christian, or are you a real Christian? You know there are two kinds. Are you one of these men or women who call themselves Christians, who go to the house of God each Sunday, perhaps to a Bible class each Wednesday, but the rest of the week they are running around after living life to the fullest in this fallen world, trying to hold on to Jesus Christ with the one hand and to the world with the other? Are you nine parts world and one part Christian? Or are you a real Christian who has renounced the world with your whole heart and given yourself to Jesus Christ with all your heart, a Christian who can sing and mean it, “I surrender all”? “Where art thou?” What kind of Christian are you?
Once more, are you for Christ, or are you against Him? You know you are either one or the other, for He says so. We read in Matt. 12:30, in the words of Jesus Himself, “He that is not with Me, is against Me.” Everyone reading this is either with Jesus wholeheartedly, confessedly, openly, or else you are against Jesus. Which are you? For Christ or against Him? Men and women, eternity, and where will thou spend it? Where you will spend eternity very likely will depend upon where you are right now. Let us pray.
By R. A. Torrey and Edward D. Andrews
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