Soul, take this counsel and say, 'Satan, sin, lust, pleasure, profit, pride, friends, companions, and everything else, let me alone, stand off, come not nigh me, for I am running for heaven, for my soul, for God, for Christ, from hell and everlasting damnation: if I win, I win all, and if I lose, I lose all; let me alone, for I will not hear'. SO RUN.
Take heed of being offended at the cross that thou must go by, before thou come to heaven. You must understand, as I have already touched, that there is no man that goeth to heaven but he must go by the cross. The cross is the standing way-mark by which all they that go to glory must pass by. We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12). If thou art in the way to the kingdom, my life for thine thou wilt come at the cross shortly, the Lord grant thou dost not shrink at it, so as to turn thee back again. If any man will come after me, saith Christ, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23). The cross it stands, and hath stood, from the beginning, as a way-mark to the kingdom of heaven. You know if one ask you the way to such and such a place, you, for the better direction, do not only say, this is the way, but then also say, you must go by such a gate, by such a style, such a bush, tree, bridge, or such like. Why, so it is here; art thou inquiring the way to heaven? Why, I tell thee, Christ is the way; into him thou must get, into his righteousness, to be justified; and if thou art in him, thou wilt presently see the cross, thou must go close by it, thou must touch it, nay, thou must take it up, or else thou wilt quickly go out of the way that leads to heaven, and turn up some of those crooked lanes that lead down to the chambers of death.
How thou mayest know the cross by these six things. 1. It is known in the doctrine of justification. 2. In the doctrine of mortification. 3. In the doctrine of perseverance. 4. In self-denial. 5. Patience. 6. Communion with poor saints.
1. In the doctrine of justification; there is a great deal of the cross in that: a man is forced to suffer the destruction of his own righteousness for the righteousness of another. This is no easy matter for a man to do; I assure to you it stretcheth every vein in his heart before he will be brought to yield to it. What, for a man to deny, reject, abhor, and throw away all his prayers, tears, alms, keeping of sabbaths, hearing, reading, with the rest, in the point of justification, and to count them accursed; and to be willing, in the very midst of the sense of his sins, to throw himself wholly upon the righteousness and obedience of another man, abhorring his own, counting it as deadly sin, as the open breach of the law; I say, to do this in deed and in truth, is the biggest piece of the cross; and therefore Paul calleth this very thing a suffering; where he saith, And I have SUFFERED the loss of all things, which principally was his righteousness, that I might win Christ, and be found in him, not having, but rejecting, mine own righteousness (Phil 3:8,9). That is the first.
2. In the doctrine of mortification is also much of the cross. Is it nothing for a man to lay hands on his vile opinions, on his vile sins, of his bosom sins, of his beloved, pleasant, darling sins, that stick as close to him, as the flesh sticketh to the bones? What, to lose all these brave things that my eyes behold, for that which I never saw with my eyes? What, to lose my pride, my covetousness, my vain company, sports, and pleasures, and the rest? I tell you this is no easy matter; if it were, what need all those prayers, sighs, watchings? What need we be so backward to it? Nay, do you not see, that some men, before they will set about this work, they will even venture the loss of their souls, heaven, God, Christ, and all? What means else all those delays and put-offs, saying, Stay a little longer, I am loth to leave my sins while I am so young, and in health? Again, what is the reason else, that others do it so by the halves, coldly and seldom, notwithstanding they are convinced over and over; nay, and also promise to amend, and yet alls in vain? I will assure you, to cut off right hands, and to pluck out right eyes, is no pleasure to the flesh.
3. The doctrine of perseverance is also cross to the flesh; which is not only to begin, but for to hold out, not only to bid fair, and to say, Would I had heaven, but so to know Christ, to put on Christ, and walk with Christ as to come to heaven. Indeed, it is no great matter to begin to look for heaven, to begin to seek the Lord, to begin to shun sin. O but it is a very great matter to continue with God's approbation! My servant Caleb, saith God, is a man of another spirit, he hath followed me, followed me always, he hath continually followed me, fully, he shall possess the land (Num 14:24). Almost all the many thousands of the children of Israel in their generation, fell short of perseverance when they walked from Egypt towards the land of Canaan. Indeed they went to the work at first pretty willingly, but they were very short-winded, they were quickly out of breath, and in their hearts they turned back again into Egypt.
3-6. And so likewise of the other three, to wit, patience, self-denial, communion and
communication with and to the poor saints. How hard are these things? It is an easy
matter to deny another man, but it is not so easy a matter to deny one’s self—to deny
myself out of love to God, to His gospel, to His saints; [to deny myself] this advantage
and that gain; nay, that which otherwise I might lawfully do, were it not for offending
them. That scripture is but seldom read, and seldomer put in practice, which saith, “I
will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1Co 8:13).
Again, “We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please
ourselves” (Rom 15:1). But how froward, how hasty, how peevish and self-resolved are
the generality of professors at this day! Also, how little considering the poor, unless it be
to say, “Be ye warmed and filled” (Jam 2:16)! But to give is a seldom work, especially to
give to any poor (Gal 6:10). I tell you, all things are cross to flesh and blood; and that
man that hath but a watchful eye over the flesh, and also some considerable measure of
strength against it, he shall find his heart in these things like unto a starting horse that
is rid without a curbing bridle, ready to start at everything that is offensive to him—yea,
and ready to run away too, do what the rider can.
Well then, sinner, what sayest thou? Where is thy heart? Wilt thou run? Art thou resolved
to strip or art thou not? Think quickly, man; it is no dallying in this matter. Confer
not with flesh and blood; look up to heaven and see how thou likest it; also to hell—
of which thou mayst understand something by my book called A Few Sighs from Hell; or
the Groans of a Damned Soul 63
—which I wish thee to read seriously over and accordingly
devote thyself. If thou dost not know the way, inquire at the Word of God. If thou
wantest company, cry for God’s Spirit. If thou wantest encouragement, entertain the
promises. But be sure thou begin betimes, get into the way, run apace, and hold out to
the end—and the Lord give thee a prosperous journey. Farewell.
excerpts from John Bunyan's 'heavenly footman'- a must read
"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan