By Rev. Michael Ericson
It was my first serious winter hike. Well, not like it was Everest, but serious for me. January, in the Smoky Mountains, plenty of elevation gain, many miles, along with snow and ice. I had read, studied, exercised, and prepared as much as possible. While I did summit and return safely to my family, the story I share is not about some great conquest.
Recent snowfalls, melting and refreezing multiple times, had transformed large sections of the trail into rivers of ice. A bobsled rather than hiking boots would have been more suitable for portions. It was akin to an ice run, such as in the picture below.
Back with the family around the dinner table that evening, I recounted my adventures. One of them asked, “Didn’t you take your Yaktrax (traction devices to slip on to hiking boots)?” Oops, in fact, I did. Yessirreebub, I was prepared. My researching winter hiking conditions let me know I would need them. I was ready. In fact, they were clipped to my backpack the whole day! Right there they were within easy reach. What a help they would have been… if I had only put them on.
All the research and ‘learning’ in the world did me no good, because I failed to put them on. My lack of experience had not ingrained in me a practical knowledge of use. I was not yet an experimental hiker; i.e. I was not one who had been put through tried and true experience to determine what I really knew. “What an idiot!” I said to myself. I knew I needed them, but I didn’t KNOW I needed them, as in that practical, experimental knowledge of putting them on. I can assure you that in the following years of winter hiking I KNEW to put them on!
My friend, the same is true with regard to Jesus Christ. Yes, it is important and necessary to learn about Jesus; to memorize the Scripture; to know about the way of salvation. But you must put on Christ. Have you been ever learning but not coming to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus? As Paul exhorts, “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 13:14)
To put on Christ, you must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ with your heart (Rom 10:9). As the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it, 14.2, “the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.” Receive Christ (Jn 1:12), and “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Some may say, “I’ve been baptized” and cite Gal 3:27 “as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” This, however, speaks of the baptism of the Spirit, the washing of regeneration (Tit 3:5), that true Spiritual union wrought in Christ by your effectual calling. Water baptism is a sign of this, as well as a seal unto those to whom grace belongs. To trust in the sign and seal, or to set it in place of Christ, is, to borrow an illustration from Samuel Rutherford, like someone who attempts to warm himself with a picture of a fire. If you have not personally believed, received and trusted in Christ, then you have not put on Christ. You must put on Christ.
Now, my failing to appropriate and put on my Yaktrax Pros during a hike was only an inconvenience, in addition to making me look and feel a bit foolish. I survived without them. It is not so regarding your eternal state. You will not survive, you will not live, you will not be a partaker of eternal life without putting on Christ. It is absolutely essential to your salvation. Don’t take another step before you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Rom 13:14) has a continual application. What is true of your habitual or definitive sanctification is also experimentally put on day by day, step by step. We stumble every time we do not lay hold of Christ. Only in Christ can we walk safely and securely. You must put Christ on. Have your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. So, lay hold of Christ my friend and “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.”