Lucas is a stereotypical troublemaker. Before the day begins, the hood of his sweatshirt lies flat on his back, per school rules. The clock strikes 7:30. The rebel in Lucas begins to yawn. He dons his hood and walks upright into his first class. Let the defiance commence.
Peers draw sharpened pencils from backpacks. Lucas has one, too. He crushes the lead between his fingers without further delay. While others begin bell work, Lucas buries his face in his hoodie and his body in a slouch.
The timer counts down. The teacher makes his rounds. He points out missing periods, uncapitalized sentences, and Lucas. “Why haven’t you started?” he demands. His eyes look as stern as his voice sounds.
“Can’t start,” he says. “Pencil’s broke.”
Pointer finger to the door, he casts Lucas out. Never mind that class began just a few minutes ago. He just does not have enough time, enough energy, enough patience, enough grace, to deal with Lucas this morning. So he casts him out.
Christ Wants You
I treat Christ as Lucas does the teacher. Morning breaks; I rebel. My flesh desires to snap God’s law as if it were a pencil; I comply. I could choose otherwise, but my spirit is weak. Ashamed, I slink into myself as if my soul were a sweatshirt. When confronted, I deny my hand. I mutter something incoherent about pencils and laws tending to break themselves.
Hand outstretched, Christ calls me to himself. Never mind that I have broken God’s law, grieving his heart, countless times since the moment I awoke. He has enough time, enough energy, enough patience, enough grace, to deal with sinners like me. He will in no way cast me out.
Christian, can you believe it? If you are in Christ, the same is true for you. Your rebellion cannot repel his love for you. Your repeated offenses cannot upend his desire to be near to you. Your self-righteousness cannot reverse the righteousness he gave to you, once and for all. He wants you to have it, because he wants you.
It may seem all too good to be true — but that is the very character of God in Christ. He delights to be “too good” to us who were only bad. Besides, we humans cannot dream this stuff up. The story of God’s grace toward sinners like us is a thing of the divine imagination and execution.
Uneasy Hearts Be Free
You do not have to believe me.
- Believe Christ: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:37–40).
- Believe the seventeenth-century Puritan John Bunyan: “But I am a great sinner, say you. ‘I will in no wise cast out,’ says Christ. But I am an old sinner, say you. ‘I will in no wise cast out,’ says Christ. But I am a hard-hearted sinner, say you. ‘I will in no wise cast out,’ says Christ. But I am a backsliding sinner, say you. ‘I will in no wise cast out,’ says Christ. But I have served Satan all my days, say you. ‘I will in no wise cast out,’ says Christ. But I have sinned against light, say you. ‘I will in no wise cast out,’ says Christ. But I have sinned against mercy, say you. ‘I will in no wise cast out,’ says Christ. But I have no good thing to bring with me, say you. ‘I will in no wise cast out,’ says Christ.” Bunyan concludes: “This promise was provided to answer all objections, and does answer them.”
- Believe today’s Dane Ortlund, author of Gentle and Lowly: “We cannot present a reason for Christ to finally close off his heart to his own sheep. No such reason exists. Every human friend [or teacher] has a limit. If we offend enough, if a relationship gets damaged enough, if we betray enough times, we are cast out. The walls go up. With Christ, our sins and weaknesses are the very resumé items that qualify us to approach him. Nothing but coming to him is required — first at conversion and a thousand times thereafter until we are with him upon death.”
Christ will in no way cast you out. Christian, do you believe that?
Read, Think, Feel, and Need
We can’t believe Christ’s promise until we know it with our minds and understand it with our hearts. Take your heart’s temperature: If it warms to Christ’s hold on you, clinging to his grip, you have done more than merely read John 6:37–40. You understand his promise. For you love it, and you need it.
I neither comprehended nor cherished Christ’s commitment to me until I read Gentle and Lowly. In it you will find Christ’s words, Bunyan’s paraphrase, and Ortlund’s explanation side by side. The sequence thrills the uneasy heart, which is why I offer it here in part. If your heart still feels cold, I encourage you to go first to John 6 then to Ortlund’s book. Christ will meet you there.
“Can’t start,” he says. “Pencil’s broke.”
The teacher kneels beside Lucas.