Thrust statement: One detects the voice of grace, the exhibition of mercy, and the searching love of God in His question to Adam.
Scripture Reading: Genesis 3:9-11
But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Genesis 3:9-11).
When Adam and Eve sinned, God came straight down to seek out the lost souls. As He walked through the garden in the cool of the day, one could have heard Him calling “Adam! Adam! Where are you?” It was the voice of grace, the voice of mercy, and the voice of love. God sought Adam, but Adam ought to have sought God, for he was the transgressor. He had fallen, and he ought to have gone up and down Eden crying, “My God! My God! Where are you?”
God left heaven to seek for the rebels who had fallen—not to hurl Adam and Eve from the face of the earth, but rather to provide them an escape from their sin; God finds Adam hiding from his Creator among the bushes of the garden. God’s grace toward Adam and Eve is just a foretaste of what is to come; God is a God of grace, a God of mercy, and a God of love to all men. One captures the ultimate of God’s love as John the apostle records a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17).
Adam’s reaction to sin is the same reaction of man today. The moment an individual is out of communion with God, he/she wants to hide from Him. When God originally placed Adam and Eve in the garden, they were in communion with their Creator. Moses writes that God talked with Adam. But now that he has fallen, Adam has no desire to see his Creator; he has lost communion with his God, he cannot bear to see Him, and he runs to hide from God. But to his hiding place his Maker follows him. “Where are you, Adam? Where are you?”
Several thousand years have passed away since the creation of the heavens and the earth, and yet this text in Genesis 3:9 has come rolling down the ages. This text still echoes within the hearts of most men and women. Almost all individuals have heard this verse cited at some point in his or her lifetime. This verse has resonated through the ages, especially the question that God asked Adam: “Where are you?” Sometimes, as one witnesses the midnight hour stealing over himself/herself, one, too, may question his or her own relationship to God with the following questions: “Where am I? Who am I? Where am I going?
It is well for individuals to pause and to ask themselves the same question that God asked Adam and Eve. Where do you stand in your relationship to God? One must come to grips with his/her spiritual status. Have you asked yourself the question that God asked Adam? If not, why not? Whether you are an old man with hair turning gray, whether you are an old woman with eyes growing dim, whether you are a young boy or a young girl in the prime of your life, you will soon be in another world. Since this is so, then one must reevaluate his or her life by confronting the question head-on: “Where are you?”
Moses assesses the plight of man when he writes: “The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away” (Psalms 90:10). Again, he pens: “You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning—though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered” (Psalms 90:5-6). “Where are you” in your relationship with God? Do you delight in God’s Law? How often do you read the Word of God? Do you meet with God’s people on Sunday mornings when they gather to encourage one another and to praise God for all His wonderful blessings? Are you seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness?
One should not ask, where am I in the sight of my neighbors or in the sight of my friends. Neither should one ask, where am I in the sight of the community in which I live, though one is concerned about how his/her works demonstrate his/her Christian testimony. The big subject matter is not: “Where am I in the sight of others?” But rather, “Where am I in the sight of God?” “Where are you” in the scheme of redemption? It matters very little where we are in the sight of others; it does matter as to what God thinks of us. If God were to ask you the same question that He asked Adam, how would you respond?
It is extremely important for one to know where he or she stands in God’s sight. Are you in communion with your Creator? Are you out of communion with the One who offers eternal life to those who put their faith in His Son? If you are out of communion with Him, then there is no real peace, no real joy, nor any real happiness. No man or woman can be out of communion with his/her Creator and, at the same time, truly know what peace is, what joy is, what happiness is, or what true comfort is. Men and women are foreigners to God's blessings when they are not in communion with Him.
As you reflect upon this question, one cannot help but wonder what you are thinking. Are you thinking about your neighbors, or are you reflecting upon your own reaction to God’s question? Don’t forget that this question was the first question put to Adam after his fall, and it was a very small audience that God had—Adam and his wife. God was the seeker, not Adam and Eve; they hid themselves. One cannot hide himself/ herself from God. You may think that your life is not visible to God, but one should always remember that God knows everything about you. The Psalmist describes God’s omniscience in penetrating words:
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue. you know it completely, O LORD (Psalms 139:1-4).
God knows everyone! He knows your life; he knows my life. He knows the lives of men and women better than they know themselves. His eyes have been bent upon every person from his/her earliest childhood. God knows where you are! Again, the Psalmist says:
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you (Psalms 139:11-12).
In order to assist each person in his/her relationship to God, perhaps, it would be helpful for each one to determine where he/she stands before God. Do you stand as a professed Christian? Do you stand before God as a backslider? Or do you stand before God as an alien? Which category are you in?
As a professing Christians, how do you respond to God’s question to Adam? “Where are you?” should ring loud and clear within your mind. What is your relationship to Christ’s church? Do your friends know you to be on the Lord's side? Are you mature in Jesus or are you still a babe? How long have you been a Christian? Is it twenty years, thirty years, or forty years? Well, “Where are you now?” in your Christian growth? Are you making progress towards heaven? And can you give a reason for the hope that is within you?
Are you really a Christian? Are you willing to take your stand for Christ? Or are you ashamed to stand up for Jesus? Are you afraid to die? Suppose someone should ask you the following question: “If you should be cut down by the hand of death, have you good reason to believe you would be saved?” Are you be willing to stand up before God and man and say that you have good reason to believe you have passed from death unto life? Or would you be reluctant? As you run your mind back over the past years, are you horrified? Would it be consistent for you to say, “yes, I am a Christian.” Does your life correspond with your profession? Where are you in your relationship with God?
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
“I am a Christian,” says one. Yes, but actions speak louder than words. Do your neighbors know that you are a Christian? Do your co-workers know that you are a Christian? Do your family members know that you are a Christian? Does everyone know you to be on the Lord’s side? Let every professed Christian ask: “Where am I in the sight of God?” “Is my heart loyal to the King of heaven?” “Is my life here as it should be in the community in which I live?” “Am I a light in this dark world?” Can you respond positively to what Christ says in His Sermon on the Mount? Listen to Jesus as He describes the ethical behavior that is to characterize His disciples:
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
Christians are to be living epistles. Are you a living epistle? Do individuals see Christ in you? Paul reminds the Corinthians about their status in the world:
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:1-3).
Are you a living epistle? Are you standing up for Jesus? Are you known and read by all men? Are you standing up for Christ in this dark and sinful world? If you are for God, then come out of the world and be counted. Are you trying to serve God and the world at the same time? Remember that Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24). Do you make excuses for not serving God? Are you devoted to God?
If an individual is for God, let him/her come out and be on God’s side; if one is for the world, let him/her be in the world. Seeking to serve God and the world at the same time is the curse of Christianity at the present time. It retards the progress of Christianity more than any other thing. Again, Jesus says, “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). Hopefully, you do not think that a simple profession of faith will be sufficient for the rest of your life. How do you respond to God’s question to Adam? Child of God, “Where are you?” If God should appear to you tonight in your bedroom and ask you this piercing question, what would be your answer? Could you say, “Lord, I am serving You with my whole heart and strength; I am improving my talents and working toward the advancement of your kingdom upon earth. Will you answer, as Moses did, “Here I am” (Exodus 3:4).
Dwight L. Moody told the story of one of his visits to England. He said,
When I was in England in 1867, there was a merchant who came over from Dublin, and was talking with a businessman in London; and as I happened to look in, he introduced me to the man from Dublin. Alluding to me, the latter said to the former, “Is this young man all O O?” Said the London man, “What do you mean by O O?” Replied the Dublin man, “Is he Out-and-Out for Christ?” I tell you it burned down into my soul. It means a good deal to be O O for Christ; but that is what all Christians ought to be, and their influence would be felt on the world very soon, if men who are on the Lord’s side would come out and take their stand, and lift up their voices in season and out of season. As I have said, there are a great many in the church who make one profession, and that is about all you hear of them; and when they come to die you have to go and hunt up some musty old church records to know whether they were Christians or not.
Are you “out-and-out for Christ?” One cannot help but reflect upon the prophet Daniel. Do you suppose that all the men in Babylon knew whom he served? Yes, they knew! God still needs men and women with courage to stand up for Christ. The Christian community needs dedicated men and women who are willing to advance the cause of Christ. Where do you stand? There is one thing that God hates, and that is lukewarmness. One witnesses, almost daily, the dead, cold formalism of many within the Church of Jesus.
The religious journals are filled with various and numerous “isms.” Many Christians are so busy heresy hunting that they have lost their first love. If one were to put all of the “isms” together, one would discover that these “isms” destroy the sensitivity for soul winning. There are so many Christians just sleeping and slumbering while souls all around are perishing. Are you half-asleep as a professed Christian? Some believers are beginning to rub their eyes and to get them half-opened, but, as a whole, many saints are still asleep.
Moody related a very moving picture of the church today. He said,
There was a little story going the round of the American press that made a great impression upon me as a father. A father took his little child out into the field one Sabbath, and, it being a hot day, he lay down under a beautiful shady tree. The little child ran about gathering wild flowers and little blades of grass, and coming to its father and saying, “Pretty! Pretty!” At last the father fell asleep, and while he was sleeping the little child wandered away. When he awoke, his first thought was, “Where is my child?” He looked all around, but he could not see him. He shouted at the top of his voice, but all he heard was the echo of his own voice. Running to a little hill, he looked around and shouted again. No response! Then going to a precipice at some distance, he looked down, and there upon the rocks and briars, he saw the mangled form of his loved child. He rushed to the spot, took up the lifeless corpse and hugged it to his bosom, and accused himself of being the murderer of his child. While he was sleeping his child had wandered over the precipice. I thought as I heard that, what a picture of the church of God!
How many fathers and mothers are sleeping now while their children wander over the terrible precipice right into the bottomless pit of destruction? Father, where is your child? Is your child pressing on toward eternal damnation? Mother, where is your son or daughter? Fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, what are you doing to encourage your children to follow Jesus? Have you lived so godly and so Christ-like that you can say, “Follow me even as I follow Christ”?
Ø Are your children walking in wisdom?
Ø Are your children on the way to glory?
Ø Are your children in the arms of Jesus?
Ø Are your children's names written in the Lamb's book of life?
Ø Are you to blame for your children's lack of interest in the Lord?
Ø Have you been a good example for your children?
How would you answer these questions? In your prayers, are you concerned about God waking up every mother, every grandmother, every father, every grandfather, every aunt, every uncle, every brother, and every sister to God consciousness and to the value of the soul? How great is your soul? How great are the souls of others? Jesus points out, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). May God help parents to always feel the worth of the souls of their children and their grandchildren. One’s children should become a blessing to the church and to the world.
Moody recounts the story of a friend whose daughter lay dying:
Not long ago the only daughter of a wealthy friend of mine sickened and died. The father and mother stood by her dying bed. He had spent all his time in accumulating wealth for her; she had been introduced into gay and fashionable society; but she had been taught nothing of Christ. As she came to the brink of the river of death, she said, “Won’t you help me; it is very dark, and the stream is bitter cold.” They wrung their hands in grief, but could do nothing for her; and the poor girl died in darkness and despair. What was their wealth to them? And yet, you mothers and fathers are doing the same thing in London today, by ignoring the work God has given you to do. I beseech you, then, each one of you, begin to labor now for the souls of your children!
Is this ignorance also true of you in your relationship to your children and grandchildren? Are you more concerned about wealth than you are about the salvation of others? Jesus says, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). A story was told of a young man, some time ago, who lay dying, and his mother thought he was a Christian. One day, passing his room, she heard him say, “Lost! Lost! Lost!” The mother ran into the room and cried, “My boy, is it possible you have lost your hope in Christ, now that you are dying?” “No, mother, it is not that; I have a hope beyond the grave, but I have lost my life. I have lived twenty-four years, and done nothing for the Son of God, and now I am dying. My life has been spent for myself; I have lived for this world, and now, while I am dying, I have given myself to Christ; but my life is lost.”
Could it be said of you that if some accident or disease cut your life down that your life would be described as a failure, that is to say, a failure as far as leading anyone else to Christ is concerned. Men and women, boys and girls, are you working for the Son of God? Are you trying to win some soul to Christ? Have you tried to get some friend or companion to have his/her name written in the Lamb's book of life? Or would you just say, “Lost, lost!” Is it true that many years have passed since you became a child of God, and yet you have never had the privilege of leading one soul to Christ?
If you have never experienced the joy of leading even one soul into the kingdom of God, then, begin at once. There is no greater privilege on earth. Daniel (605 BCE), a prophet of God, describes the brightness of those who lead others to God: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3). There has never been a time when work for Christ is more needed than at present. The church of our Lord Jesus must wake up to the urgency of its responsibility in advancing His kingdom upon earth. All Christians must come together as one man to beat back those dark waves of death that roll through our streets. My prayer is that God will wake up the Church! Every one should trim his/her lamp for others to see and go forth to convert sinners for God’s glory. Every individual should work toward the unity of His children for others to believe.
Let me say a few words to those who have gone back into the world, that is to say, “backslider.” It may be that many years ago you were a professed Christian. You were a member of the church and also a Sunday school teacher. But, “Where are you” now? You gave up teaching in the Sunday school; you gave up all work for Christ; you gave up Bible reading; you gave up prayers; and you gave up church attendance. You developed the habit of staying away from the Sunday morning gatherings. You have gone so far now that you are found in everything except the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who are your companions now? Are you the companion of those who rebel against God? Are you now walking in the counsel of the ungodly? Are you walking in the light? Are you walking in the Spirit? Or are you walking in the flesh? The words of the Psalmist are to the point.
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night (Psalms 1:1-2).
The Prodigal Son
Everyone knows about the prodigal son. Perhaps you have been away from his father’s house for many years. Are you happy? Have you had one happy hour since you left Christ? Does your conscience bother you? Does the world satisfy you? Or do those husks that you have obtained in the far country bring disappointment? I have been preaching and teaching for over fifty years, but I have never found a happy backslider in my life. I never knew a man or woman who was really born of God that could find the world to satisfy him/her afterwards in a life separated from God. Do you think the Prodigal Son was fulfilled in that foreign country? Ask the prodigals in this city if they are truly happy. Ask the prodigals in any city if they are in high spirits. You know they are not! I know they are not! “There is no peace,” says God, “for the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21).
There is no joy for any man or woman in his or her rebellion against the Creator. Any man or woman who has tasted the heavenly gift of salvation, received the Holy Spirit as God’s seal of justification, dined upon the goodness of the Word of God, experienced the blessings of the powers of the coming age (Hebrews 6:4)), lived in communion with the eternal God, participated in sweet fellowship with the King of Heaven, spent pleasant hours of service in God's kingdom, then this man or woman can never be happy in sin. If a person has been born again and has received the heavenly nature, this world can never again satisfy the cravings of his or her nature.
Oh, backslider, I pity you! But I want to tell you that the Lord Jesus Christ pities you a good deal more than anyone else can. He knows how bitter your life is; He knows how dark your life is; He wants you to come home. He pleads with you to come home! I hold in my hand a loving message from our Father. I encourage you to read these letters. This is the Bible—the Word of the Living God. The Lord wants you and He calls you back. He is still saying, “Come.” John the apostle recorded the words he received from Jesus: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17). Jesus is saying, “Come home, oh wanderer, come home.” This day God desires every wanderer to return from the dark mountain of sin. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. God, through Ezekiel, says,
But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:21-23).
Come home, oh wanderer, today; return from the dark mountain of sin. Return and your Father will give you a warm welcome. I know that the devil has told you that God won’t have anything to do with you, because you have wandered away. If that were true, then there would be very few men in heaven. David backslid; Abraham and Jacob sinned; there is not a saint in heaven who did not sin at some point in his or her life. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, expresses the failure of humanity: “. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).
The Prodigal Heart
The prodigal’s heart jumped into the far country before his body arrived there. Backslider! Come home. Your Father does not want you to stay away. Do you not think that the prodigal’s father was not anxious for his son to come home after all those long, long years he was away? Even though the Scriptures do not mentioned the emotional state of the father; nevertheless, one cannot help but wonder if the father did not look and long for his son’s return. God wants you to come home. Regardless as to how far you have wandered away, the great Shepherd will receive you back into the fold today.
Did you ever hear of a backslider coming home to the fold of God and that God was not willing to receive him? No! God is always willing to receive. Jesus says, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7). Yes, you have heard of earthly fathers and mothers not willing to receive their sons and daughters back after their rebellion, but I defy any man or woman to say they ever knew a really honest backslider that wanted to get back home that God was not willing to receive. To illustrate the natural tendencies of human fathers toward forgiveness of their wayward children, let me relate a true story of a young boy in Chicago that occurred many years ago.
I am indebted to Dwight L. Moody who shared this story that expresses the boundless love of God. He wrote,
A number of years ago, before any railway came into Chicago, they used to bring in the grain from the Western prairies in wagons for hundreds of miles, so as to have it shipped off by the Lakes. There was a father who had a large farm out there, and who used to preach the gospel as well as attend to his farm. One day, when church business engaged him, he sent his son to Chicago with grain. He waited and waited for his boy to return, but he did not come home. At last he could wait no longer, so he saddled his horse and rode to the place where his son had sold the grain. He found that he had been there and got the money for the grain; then he began to fear that his boy had been murdered and robbed. At last, with the aid of a detective, they tracked him to a gambling den, where they found that he had gambled away the whole of his money. In hopes of winning it back again, he then had sold the team, and lost that money too. He had fallen among thieves, and like the man who was going to Jericho, they stripped him, and then they cared no more about him. What could he do? He was ashamed to go home to meet his father, and he fled. The father knew what it all meant. He knew the boy thought he would be very angry with him. He was grieved to think that his boy should have such feelings towards him. That is just exactly like the sinner. He thinks because he has sinned, God will have nothing to do with him. But what did that father do? Did he say, “Let the boy go?” No, he went after him. He arranged his business and started after the boy. That man went from town to town, from city to city. He would get the ministers to let him preach, and at the close he would tell his story. “I have got a boy who is a wanderer on the face of the earth somewhere.” He would describe his boy and say, “If you ever hear of him or see him, will you not write to me?” At last he found that he had gone to California, thousands of miles away. Did that father say “Let him go?” No; off he went to the pacific coast (sic), seeking the boy. He went to San Francisco, and advertised in the newspapers that he would preach at such a church on such a day. When he had preached he told his story, in hopes that the boy might have seen the advertisement and come to the church. When he had done, away under the gallery there was a young man who waited until the audience had gone out; then he came towards the pulpit. The father looked, and saw it was that boy, and he ran to him, and pressed him to his bosom. The boy wanted to confess what he had done, but not a word would the father hear. He forgave him freely, and took him to his home once more.
Sinner, prodigal, backslider, you may be wandering in the valley of sin, but God wants you to come home. God will welcome you this very moment if you will come and say, “I will arise and go to my Father.” May God incline you to take this step. There is not one whom Jesus has not sought. There has not been a day since you left Him that He has not followed you. God does not care what the past has been, or how black your life has become, or how smutty your behavior has grown: He will receive you again into His arms. Do you not hear the call? “Arise and come home once more.” Regardless as to how sordid your life is, God still calls—“Come!”
The story was told of a Christian lady in Edinburgh who found a young woman whose feet had taken hold of hell, and who was pressing onwards to a harlot’s grave. The Christian lady begged the young woman to go back to her home, but she said, “No, her parents would never receive her.” This Christian woman knew what a mother’s heart was; so she sat down and wrote a letter to the mother of the young woman, telling her how she had met her daughter, who was sorry, and wanted to return home. Shortly thereafter, the postman delivered an answer from the mother. And on the envelope was written, “Immediately! Immediately! Immediately!”
That response of acceptance was a mother’s heart. The Christian woman and the young lady opened the letter together. The letter said, “Forgiven, all is forgiven—Come home.” The mother wanted her back. The mother sent money in the envelope for her to come home immediately. Sinner, that is the proclamation of God—“Come immediately.” That is what the great and loving God is saying to every wandering sinner—immediately. Yes, God wants you to return. He will give you a warm welcome, and there will be joy in heaven over your return. Come now, for everything is ready.
Have you ever observed what the prodigal son lost when he went into a far country? He lost his food. And so it is with every Christian that goes into a far country. He too loses his food. That is what every backslider loses. They get no manna from heaven. Remember that Jesus told Satan that “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).
The Bible is a closed book to those that do not hunger and thirst after righteousness; they who reject God see no beauty in the Word of God. But for the Christian, he/she delights in the law of God. Not only did the prodigal lose his food, but he also lost his work. Every backslider loses his/her work for God. One cannot do anything for God; one cannot work for eternity; one is a stumbling block to the world; one is a stumbling block to the church. I beg you to let not the world lead you into eternal damnation
The Prodigal Lost His Testimony
Again, the prodigal also lost his testimony. Who believed him? One can imagine that some of these men came along, natives of that country, and saw this poor prodigal in his rags, barefooted and bareheaded. There they saw the prodigal standing among the swine. Surely, someone said, “Look at that poor wretch.” But the prodigal responds, “What, do you call me a poor wretch? My father is a wealthy man; he has got more clothes in his wardrobe than you ever saw in your life. My father is a man of great wealth and position.” Do you suppose these men believed him? Surely not! “If he had such a wealthy father, he would go to him.” So it is with the backslider; the world does not believe that a backslider is the son of God. Surely, they, too, say, “Why don’t they go to Him, if there is bread enough and to spare? Why don’t they go home?”
Then, another thing the prodigal lost was his home. He had no home in that foreign country. As long as his money lasted, he was quite popular in the public house and among his acquaintances; he also had professed friends, but as soon as his money was gone, where were his friends? That is the condition of every poor backslider in the world.
The Prodigal Son versus My Life
But that was the prodigal son; my situation is different. One can imagine someone saying, “I just can’t live a Christian life.” Or, “There would be little use of my attempting to come back. In a few days I would sin again. I would like very much to go to my Father’s home again, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t stay there.” Just picture this scene. The poor prodigal arrived home, and the father killed the fatted calf, and there they are, sitting at the table eating. I can imagine that was about the sweetest feast he ever experienced— perhaps the nicest dinner he ever had in his life. His father sits opposite, full of joy, and his heart is leaping within him. All at once he sees his boy weeping. “My son, why are you weeping? Are you not glad to be home?” “Oh, yes, father, I have never been so glad as I am today: but I am so afraid I will go back into that foreign country!” Is this the way you feel as a Christian? Are you afraid to take that step for Jesus again? Are you afraid that you will backslide? You may be inclined to wander away again. You may, but that fear of wandering is not a concern for the present. You are home; you are forgiven.
Now let me speak to the third class, the ungodly. Sinner, what is to become of you? How shall you escape? “Where are you?” If you are not a Christian, then, it is true that you are living without God and without hope in the world. Paul expresses this thought in the Ephesians letter in the affirmative:
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-13).
Do you ever stop to think about your soul? Where would you spend eternity if your soul should be taken away by a sudden stroke or illness? Where will you stand in eternity? I read that the sinner is without God, without hope, and without excuse. Does not the Word of God confirm this? Paul writes,
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).
If you are not saved, what excuse will you have to give? You cannot say that it is God’s fault. He is only too anxious to save you. I want to tell you today that you can be saved if you are willing. If you really want to pass from death to life, if you want to become an heir of eternal life, if you want to become a child of God, then decide that this day you will seek the kingdom of God. I tell you by the authority of the Word of God that if you seek the kingdom of God you will find it. No man ever sought Christ with a heart to find Him who did not find Him. Jesus says,
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life (Revelation 22:17).
Again, our Lord says,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:16-21).
I have observed that the longer a man puts off salvation, the more difficult it is for him to respond to the good news of God. As I become older (I am now sixty-six), I view life as a man who has reached the top of the hill and is now heading down the other side. I am close to the threescore years and ten that Moses addresses in Psalm 90. I am speaking to many who are now on the top of the hill of life. I am speaking to many who are on the way down the hill of life. And I implore you, if you are not a Christian to just pause a few minutes and ask yourselves, “Where am I?” “Where are you?” in your spiritual journey?
Looking Back on the Hill of Life
Everyone should look back on the hill of life that he/she has been climbing. What do you see? Look back over your life and you will see the cradle, just a short time ago. On the other side of the hill of life, not very far away, you will see the tombstone. How short life is! It all seems but as if it were just yesterday that you started up the hill of life. Visit a cemetery and you will see the grave markers that identify a resting place of a loved mother, a beloved father, a dear wife, a wonderful husband, a gracious son, a beautiful daughter, and a wonderful friend. Just look, they are all there!
When that mother died, did you promise God that you would serve Him? Did you say that your mother’s God should become your God? Did you take her hand in the stillness of the dying hour, and say, “Yes, mother, I will meet you in heaven!” Have you kept that promise? Are you trying to keep it?
Time is Slipping Away
Ten years have rolled away! Fifteen years have rolled away! Time is rolling by fast! Are you any nearer to God than you were then? Remember, David writes of the brevity of life:
As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more (Psalms 103:15-16).
Did the promise you made to your loved one work any improvement in your life? No, your heart is getting harder, the night is getting darker, and death will soon be throwing its shadows around you. Again, I ask, “Where are you?” Look again. A little farther up the hill there is another tombstone. Are you keeping that promise? It marks the resting-place of the wife of your youth—perhaps her name was Marvelene. It marks the resting-place of a lovely girl—perhaps her name was Becky. It marks the resting-place of a wonderful son—perhaps his name was Ray. Or it marks the resting-place of a brother-in-law—perhaps his name was Curtis. When that child was taken from you, did you promise the child that you would meet him/her in heaven? Did you make this promise to your mother? Did you make this promise to your father?
Think! Are you still fighting against God? Are you still hardening your heart? Sermons that would have moved you five years ago—do they touch you now? Once more look down the hill of life. Yes, there is a grave, though you cannot tell how many days, weeks, or years it is away. You are hastening towards that grave. Even if you should live the seventy to eighty years allotted to man, it is still soon cut off. Many of you are near the end, you are getting very old, very feeble; even your hair is turning gray. This is a description of me also!
It may be that the coffin is already made that this body will be laid in; it may be that the shroud is already waiting. Am I speaking to some who will be in eternity today, tonight, or next week? I do not know, neither do you! In an audience like this, it is possible that during the next week death may come and snatch some of us away; it may be the speaker, or it may be someone who is listening. Why not make a decision for Christ today? Why not face the question that God asked Adam? Again, “Where are you?”
Are you with God or against God? Why do you say to the Lord Jesus, “That’s enough for now? You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for you?” (Acts 24:25). Will there ever be a better opportunity than now? Did you not promise ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty years ago that you would serve God? Some of you said you would do it when you got married and settled down; some of you said you would serve Him when you were your own master. Have you attended to it? In concluding this message, may I call attention to the “three steps to the lost world.”
THREE STEPS TO THE LOST WORLD
The First Step is Neglecting Salvation
You know that there are three steps to the lost world; let me give you their names. The first is to neglect salvation. All a man has to do to suffer eternal damnation is to neglect redemption. Some people say, “What have I done?” Why, if you merely neglect salvation, you will be lost. Let us suppose that you are on a swift river in your boat and are headed toward a great waterfall. Everyone knows that if you go over it you will perish. What do you do? Do you need to do anything to prevent yourself going over the waterfall? No! You need not row the boat down the stream; just pull in your oars and fold your arms—that’s all. Simply neglect to do anything and you will perish. This is also true in the spiritual realm. Just fold your arms in the current of life and you will drift on into eternity unprepared to meet your God. Answer the question, “Where are you?”
The second step is to refuse salvation. If I were to meet you at the door of the church building and confront you with this question, “Where are you?” What would you say? Would you respond by saying, “I'm lost,” or would you respond by saying, “I’m in Jesus.” If you are lost, are you saying to God, “Not today, Lord, not today”? How are you going to respond today? Answer the question, “Where are you?”
The third and last step is to despise salvation. Some of you are already on the lower rung of the ladder. You despise Christ, you hate Christ, you hate Christianity, you hate the best people on earth, and you hate the best friends you have. If I were to offer you the Bible, you would tear it up and put your foot upon it. Oh, sinner! You will soon be in another world. I plead with you to make haste and repent and turn to God. On which step are you? Are you on the step of neglect? Are you on the step of refusal? Or are you on the step of despising? Bear in mind that many souls are taken off from the first step through death—they die in neglect. And many souls are taken away from the second step through death—they refuse to accept God's invitation. And, finally, many souls are taken away from the third step through death—they die despising salvation. Remember the words: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15).
This progression in rejection is evident in the lives of many men and women. A few years ago they neglected salvation, then, they refused salvation; and now, they despise Christianity. They hate the sound of the church bell; they hate the Bible; they hate the Christian; they curse the very ground that Christians walk on. But one more step and they are gone. Why not repent while there is time? Do not despise God's salvation; God sets before you life and death, which will you choose?
When Pilate had Christ on his hands, he said, “What shall I do with him?” (Matthew 27:19). And the multitude cried out, “Away with Him! Crucify Him!” (Matthew 27:23). Young men, young women, young boys, and young girls is that your language today? Do you say, “Away with this gospel”? Do you cry, “Away with Christianity”? Do you declare, “Away with your prayers”? Do you shout, “Away with your sermons”? Do you utter, “Away with your gospel sounds”? Do you declare, “I do not want Christ”? Or will you be wise and pronounce, “Lord Jesus, I want You, I need You, I will have You.” May God bring you to that decision of acceptance of His Son as His way of salvation. Remember, the Holy Spirit warns:
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first (Hebrews 3:12-14).
 I am indebted to Dwight L. Moody for this message. I have rewritten this sermon for my use. Since this sermon is so full of meaning, I have chosen to share with you many of the great insights put forth by Moody. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture citations are from the NIV.
 See Dwight L. Moody, “Where Art Thou?”, on The Sage Digital Library [CD-ROM], volumes 1-4 (Albany, Or: Sage Software, 1997, 1-800-297-4307).
 See Dwight L. Moody, “Where Art Thou?”
 See Dwight L. Moody, “Where Art Thou?”
 See Dwight L. Moody, “Where Art Thou?”