There are many ways we might choose to follow in life. The way of materialism is currently very popular, in which the over-riding concern is to acquire more and better material things. The path of popularity is also attractive to many, by which every effort is made to win friends and attract attention. Also, the route of power has many adherents, each seeking to control the lives and opinions of others. In spiritual matters, the maze of denominationalism has ensnared not a few, who become devoted proponents of their respective churches, each teaching different gospels, claiming they have discovered yet another way to heaven.
But the important nature of the question eventually demands a re-directing of our route, so that we can hear our Lord saying, “No one cometh unto the Father but by me,” and, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” (Jn. 14:6).
After hearing the preaching of the great restorationist, Walter Scott, a man named Holland Brown was baptized into Christ. Brother Brown was an abolitionist, who hosted such brethren as James A. Garfield. His young daughter, Jessie, had a flair with words, and kept a notebook in which she would write memorable phrases. These became the seeds of later poems and hymns, of which she wrote nearly 400, including the beloved, “Anywhere With Jesus” and “Beautiful Isle of Somewhere.” Although that latter song was criticized by then NJ Governor Woodrow Wilson as “vague” and “silly,” the American people felt otherwise, and it achieved widespread popularity after it was sung at President McKinley’s funeral in 1897. That same year Jessie married a gospel preacher, John Pounds, and continued her song writing career, to include “The Way of the Cross Leads Home” in 1906. This particular song captures some important and beautiful sentiments about the Christian life, and where it leads. Here are a few of the scriptural reminders from the pen of Jessie Pounds:
There’s no other way but this. Though we may be tempted to meander down the garden paths around us, charming and beautiful as they appear, “the end thereof are the ways of death,” (Prov. 14:12). These other ways do not eventually lead to life but to destruction. The way to life is singular, narrow and strait, (Mt. 7:13-14). And if we long to “get sight of the gates of light,” we desperately need to ensure that we do not miss this one, singular way.
This one way is, at times, blood-sprinkled and unpleasant. When we honestly consider the earthly journey of our Lord, we recognize that at times it was painful and difficult. We may flinch when we see the blood of him who said, “A servant is not greater than his Lord; neither one that is sent greater than he that sent him,” (Jn. 13:16), and “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” (Jn. 15:20). The way of the cross leads home, but it may traverse some unhappy territory en route.
The way is like a climb to the heights sublime. There is growth, there is improvement. The Christian walk is not a marking of time, or a downhill coast. It involves hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and eagerly consuming the word of God, “that ye may grow thereby unto salvation,” (1 Pet. 2:2). It is an ascent which requires daily effort and accomplishment. As Kipling said, “to act that each tomorrow find us farther than today.” Too many Christians veer off or park along the way. They think they have done enough. But we must keep achieving, keep improving, on our upward way home.
There is someone waiting at the open door. Our Lord longs to greet and embrace us at the journey’s end. He is cheering for us, watching with intense interest, as when the first Christian martyr beheld him above the murderous crowd, “standing at the right hand of God,” (Acts 7:56). Jesus is watching you. He is longing and hoping that you will follow him. He has given you the tools to do so. We have the power to pass through that open door, or to close it before us forever. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me, (Rev. 3:20).
Let us “bid farewell” to the way of the world. Being baptized into Christ, involves coming into his body, the church. But it also involves coming out of something. It means exiting the world and it’s attractions. Bidding farewell to that which formerly held us. Breaking the chains which did bind, and respecting the freedom which is in Christ. Having put our hand to the plow, let us not look back. Let us pursue with renewed vigor the way of the cross which leads home!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.