13 December 2017

The way home

“I am the way…no one comes to the Father but by me.”

Were you ever lost? I was once as a boy. Along with a friend we had got separated from the main party attending an event in the city. We didn’t know where we were. We were lost. The only important thing then was getting home.

Home has a tremendous call and pull on us. Many people in retirement go back home to where they grew up, even after years of living elsewhere. Some in their dotage imagine themselves back in the old home and talk about their long-dead mother or father as though they were present.

Andy Stewart used to sing the song ‘The Scottish Soldier’ about a Scottish mercenary who soldiered in Europe and longed for home.

These green hills are not highland hills Or the island’s hills, they’re not my land’s hills And fair as these green foreign hills may be They are not the hills of home.

He longed for home.

As the evening hours come upon our lives and powers decrease, often our thoughts turn to our eternal home. As we look at life in this world, we too can take the words of the Scottish soldier and say, “these hills are not my land’s hills. They are not the hills of home.” No matter who we are or what we have done in life we have awareness that we have a life beyond this life, a home beyond this world. From earliest times the peoples on this planet have had an awareness of a life beyond this life. The Ancient Egyptians, one of the earliest civilisations, had it. They put familiar items in the coffins of the dead for the journey beyond and among them would be a scarab or beetle which signified renewal of life. The Red Indians had the same instinct. Over in the East we find the same thing. The aborigines in the southern ocean had it too. In the lifetime of many of us, we have seen in the USSR and China that instinct survive the most determined attempt to drive faith out of people. Children were indoctrinated against religious belief and Christians were denied employment or promotion. They were imprisoned, often in the most horrendous and humiliating and painful conditions. Yet, this experiment was a failure: that religious instinct survived and today the Church is growing tremendously in those lands. 

Nowadays, in the West where Christianity gave freedom of belief to all, many take a secular view and deny this instinct, and some of the extreme unbelievers seem to want to repeat the communist enforcement of unbelief. But the religious instinct is real enough and can’t be destroyed. In Romans 1 Paul speaks about those who suppress the truth, “What can be known about God is clear to them because He has made it clear to them. From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what He made. As a result, people have no excuse.” GW

Often the most vociferous unbelievers, who have lived far from God in ungodly ways and denied a future life, begin to think of the future and find in their hearts a longing for something more. President Mitterrand of France was the last socialist President of France and an unbeliever. However when cancer made his death inevitable, he began to discuss with philosophers the possibility of a future life. In Britain, Malcolm Muggeridge lived most of his life without God but in his later years he made the great discovery that God is real. 

The longing for our eternal home is real. Many crowd out such thoughts in the busy years of life when all sorts of activities demand our interest and attention. But when the evening comes on and we sit down and think long thoughts and realise that the darkness is approaching, then our eternal instinct rises to the surface and we want to find the way home. If that time has come for you, don’t deny the instinct; don’t suppress it; listen to your heart. Fear is a good emotion which is intended to warn and correct. If you fear for the future, then pay attention to that fear and find the way home. But make sure you find the right way, for there are :-

WRONG WAYS

raLate one evening a man was making his way home from a local pub. He had taken too much drink and, as he made his way unsteadily through a graveyard, he fell into a grave which had been dug for a funeral the next day. He was in no fit state to get out. He jumped, clawed and did everything he could to get out but couldn’t make it. He sat down in a corner of the grave and decided to wait until someone came along. Well, as fate would have it, another customer from the pub made a similar journey and, of course, fell into the same grave but failed to notice his companion in the corner. The first man watched as his friend repeated his antics and jumped and clawed and tried to get out. At last he said to him in a loud voice, “You’ll never get out of here.” He was out the next second and took to his heels!

They took a short cut home and landed in a hole. Many are like that in life. They try to take a short-cut home and end up in a hole.

Some end up in ‘I’ll-do-as-I-am’ hole. They think they’re fine as they are. They need no help. God will accept them with all their faults and record of misdeeds. Like the two drunks, they are in a hole from which there’s no escape.

Some end up in a self-improvement hole. They think that finding the way home is a matter of trying a little harder to live a life that pleases God. They look around them and judge that they live a better life than most and, if they spruce things up a bit, they will be alright. They stop the drink or cigarettes; maybe they start going to church and get a reputation for decency. But they too are in a hole from which there is no escape.

Some end up in a church hole. They think that involvement in a church will be a sure way home. So they put their best into the church they are involved with. They’re faithful, committed, dependable – the sort of people a minister needs – but still they are in a hole.

THE RIGHT WAY HOME

There is a right way, indeed the only right way home. As you drive along the roads of N. Ireland, here and there you will see a pointer indicating the direction of the Ulster Way where you can discover the beauty of Ulster. In the same manner there is a pointer indicating the Way Home for us. It is in the form of a cross. On it is written ‘The Way Home’ but there is also a verse of Scripture which says, “You are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift” Ephesians 2:8 HCSB. At that cross you discover you won’t do as you are, else why did He have to come and die, and that you can never do enough selfimprovement, and even involvement in a church won’t get you home. It’s what He did on that cross for us. He took our place and paid the price and so we can only be saved through grace – God’sundeserved love. And there at the cross the way home begins by placing all our trust in Him who died for us.

The thought may come to us that we cannot be received into the heavenly home because of our record. A holy God couldn’t possibly receive us and so, as we journey on in our contemplation, we come to another cross pointing the way home and on it is more writing. This time it says, “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” 1Jn 1:7 HCSB. All sin? Yes, all sin. He cleanses it all away. And so we journey on in the assurance that gives us on the way home.

Sometimes doubts arise. Sometimes there are hard knocks in the evening of life. Sometimes people disappoint us, even people with a good reputation. Things happen that are hard to take or things hard to cope with like a bereavement or sickness. Over and above those things, the evening hours of life can bring increasing weakness and physical frailty and difficulties; and we wonder and maybe question. We come again to that cross pointing the way home and another message is written on it, “All things work together for good to those who love God.” All things? Indeed, even the things we find difficult to understand and cannot fit in, like a piece of a jigsaw we cannot place in the big picture. To those who love God all things work together for good. We may not see how at present but that cross with its message points the way home for us.

And so, as we near the end, we look again for the way home, and once again we see that cross pointing the way. We stand by it, as the darkness gathers round us and we see in letters of gold, “Be sure of this, I am with you always to the end of the age” Matthew 28:20 HCSB. When the last hour comes, He will be there and will open the door into the Father’s house.

But perhaps there are others who have travelled far from God and today are in a far country from Him and are not sure if they took the way home that they would be welcome. Remember the young man who left home and travelled far from home, but after some thought decided to go home again in abject poverty and with no self-esteem left. When he went, he found his father was out on the road looking for him.

In one of his sermons Wallace Hamilton tells a story of a minister who was making a train journey in America. In a seat near him sat a young man who after a while became more and more agitated. He got up now and again and looked out of the window. The minister sat down with him and offered to help. The young man explained that three years earlier he had a quarrel with his father and left home. He had never been back since but recently had written home and said he would be passing that way in the train and, if they wanted him to call, to put something white out on the washing line, but only if his father wanted it. He said to the minister, “Our house is just round the next corner and I can’t bear to look, would you look for me.” The man got up and looked out of the window as the train rounded the bend and there some distance away was the little farmhouse and everything white in the house was around it and on the washing line, sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths, even handkerchiefs. He called out, “Look son, look.” The boy’s face went white; he clutched the suitcase he had with him and the last thing the minister saw was the young man running home as fast as he could. God’s line is full of white for you today. Let the prodigal race home with all speed, for He is watching and waiting and there will be a warm welcome.

Make sure you’re on the right way home!

WORDS

Sidlow McFarland