Dane Ortland: I Will Never Cast Out

Here is a passage from the sixth Chapter of Dane Ortland’s book, Gentle and Lowly.

Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

John 6:37


Everything that Thomas Goodwin and John Owen were— erudite, well-educated, analytical, at home in the world’s best universities—John Bunyan wasn’t. Bunyan was poor and uneducated.  By the world’s standards, everything was against Bunyan’s making a lasting impact on human history. But this is just how the Lord  delights to work— taking the side-lined and the overlooked and  giving them quietly pivotal roles in the unfolding of redemptive  history. And Bunyan, though much earthier in writing style, shared Goodwin’s ability to open up the heart of Christ to his readers. Bunyan is most famous for The Pilgrim’s Progress, which is, besides the Bible, history’s best-selling book. But he also authored fifty seven other books. One of the loveliest is Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, written in 1678. The warmth of the title is representative of the entire treatise. In typical Puritan style, Bunyan took a single verse and wrote a whole book on it, reflecting on it at length. That verse, for Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, was John 6:37. In the  course of pronouncing himself the bread of life given to the spiritually hungry (John 6:32–40), Jesus declares: 

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes  to me I will never cast out. 

It was one of Bunyan’s favorite verses, as evident from how often  he cites it throughout his writings. But in this particular book he  takes the text and zeroes in on it, looking at it from every angle,  wringing it dry. 

There is a mountain of consoling theology packed into this single verse. Consider what Jesus says: 

• “All . . . ,” not “most.” Once the Father sets his loving gaze on a  wandering sinner, that sinner’s rescue is certain. 

• “. . . the Father . . .” Our redemption is not a matter of a gra cious Son trying to calm down an uncontrollably angry Father.  The Father himself ordains our deliverance. He takes the loving  initiative (note v. 38). 

• “. . . gives . . . ,” not “haggles over.” It is the Father’s deep delight to  freely entrust recalcitrant rebels into the gracious care of his Son. 

• “. . . will come . . .” God’s saving purpose for a sinner is never  thwarted. He is never frustrated. He never runs out of resources.  If the Father calls us, we will come to Christ. 

• “. . . and whoever comes . . .” Yet we are not robots. While the  Father is clearly the sovereign overseer of our redemption, we are  not dragged kicking and screaming into Christ against our will. 

Divine grace is so radical that it reaches down and turns around  our very desires. Our eyes are opened. Christ becomes beautiful.  We come to him. And anyone—“whoever”—is welcome. Come and welcome to Jesus Christ. 

• “. . . comes to me . . .” We do not come to a set of doctrines.  We do not come to a church. We do not even come to the  gospel. All these are vital. But most truly, we come to a person,  to Christ himself. 

Bunyan draws out all this and more. The book is worth reading in  full. But it is the final words of the verse that he dwells longest on,  that meant most to him. At the centre of his book he confronts our innate suspicions of Christ’s deepest heart. U sing his KJV rendering  (“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”), Bunyan writes: 

They that are coming to Jesus Christ, are often times heartily  afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them. 

This observation is implied in the text. I gather it from the  largeness and openness of the promise: “I will in no wise cast  out.” For had there not been a proneness in us to “fear casting  out,” Christ needed not to have waylaid our fear, as he does by  this great and strange expression, “In no wise.” 

There needed not, as I may say, such a promise to be invented  by the wisdom of heaven, and worded at such a rate, as it were on purpose to dash in pieces at one blow all the objections of coming  sinners, if they were not prone to admit of such objections, to the  discouraging of their own souls. 

For this word, “in no wise,” cuts the throat of all objections;  and it was dropped by the Lord Jesus for that very end; and to  help the faith that is mixed with unbelief. And it is, as it were,  the sum of all promises; neither can any objection be made upon  the unworthiness that you find in yourself, that this promise will not assoil. 

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.

This promise was provided to answer all objections, and does answer them.

We no longer use the expression “in no wise,” but it was a seventeenth-century English way of capturing the emphatic negative of  the Greek of John 6:37. The text literally reads, “the one coming  to me I will not—not—cast out.” Sometimes, as here, Greek uses two negatives piled on top of each other for literary forcefulness. “I  will most certainly never, ever cast out.” It is this emphatic negation  that Christ will ever cast us out that Bunyan calls “this great and  strange expression.” 
What is Bunyan after? 
Jesus’s statement in John 6:37, and the book Come and Welcome  to Jesus Christ, and this quote at the centre of that book, all exist to  calm us with the persevering nature of the heart of Christ. We say,  “But I . . .” He says, “I will never cast out.” 
Fallen, anxious sinners are limitless in their capacity to perceive  reasons for Jesus to cast them out. We are factories of fresh resistances to Christ’s love. Even when we run out of tangible reasons  to be cast out, such as specific sins or failures, we tend to retain a  vague sense that, given enough time, Jesus will finally grow tired of  us and hold us at arm’s length. Bunyan understands us. He knows  we tend to deflect Christ’s assurances. 
“No, wait”—we say, cautiously approaching Jesus—“you don’t  understand. I’ve really messed up, in all kinds of ways.” I know, he responds. 
“You know most of it, sure. Certainly more than what others  see. But there’s perversity down inside me that is hidden from  everyone.” 
I know it all. 
“Well—the thing is, it isn’t just my past. It’s my present too.”
I understand. 
“But I don’t know if I can break free of this any time soon.” That’s the only kind of person I’m here to help. 
“The burden is heavy—and heavier all the time.” 
Then let me carry it. 
“It’s too much to bear.” 
Not for me. 
“You don’t get it. My offenses aren’t directed toward others.  They’re against you.” 
Then I am the one most suited to forgive them. 
“But the more of the ugliness in me you discover, the sooner  you’ll get fed up with me.” 
Whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 

With mouth-stopping defiance Bunyan concludes his list of  objections we raise to coming to Jesus. “This promise was provided  to answer all objections, and does answer them.” Case closed. We  cannot present a reason for Christ to finally close off his heart to his  own sheep. No such reason exists. Every human friend 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. 
Perhaps it isn’t sins so much as sufferings that cause some of us  to question the perseverance of the heart of Christ. As pain piles  up, as numbness takes over, as the months go by, at some point the conclusion seems obvious: we have been cast out. Surely this is not  what life would feel like for one who has been buried in the heart  of a gentle and lowly Saviour? But Jesus does not say that those with  pain-free lives are never cast out. He says those who come to him  are never cast out. It is not what life brings to us but to whom we  belong that determines Christ’s heart of love for us. 
The only thing required to enjoy such love is to come to him. To  ask him to take us in. He does not say, “Whoever comes to me with  sufficient contrition,” or “Whoever comes to me feeling bad enough  for their sin,” or “Whoever comes to me with redoubled efforts.”  He says, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” 
Our strength of resolve is not part of the formula of retaining his  good will. When my two-year-old Benjamin begins to wade into the gentle slope of the zero-entry swimming pool near our home,  he instinctively grabs hold of my hand. He holds on tight as the  water gradually gets deeper. But a two-year-old’s grip is not very  strong. Before long it is not he holding on to me but me holding  on to him. Left to his own strength he will certainly slip out of my  hand. But if I have determined that he will not fall out of my grasp,  he is secure. He can’t get away from me if he tried. 
So with Christ. We cling to him, to be sure. But our grip is that  of a two-year-old amid the stormy waves of life. His sure grasp never  falters. Psalm 63:8 expresses the double-sided truth: “My soul clings  to you; your right hand upholds me.” 

o

We are talking about something deeper than the doctrine of  eternal security, or “once saved, always saved”—a glorious doctrine,  a true doctrine—sometimes called the perseverance of the saints. 
We have come, more deeply, to the doctrine of the perseverance of  the heart of Christ. Yes, professing Christians can fall away, proving  that they were never truly in Christ. Yes, once a sinner is united  to Christ, there is nothing that can dis-unite them. But within  the skeletal structure of these doctrines, what is the beating heart  of God, made tangible in Christ? What is most deeply instinctive  to him as our sins and sufferings pile up? What keeps him from  growing cold? The answer is, his heart. The atoning work of the  Son, decreed by the Father and applied by the Spirit, ensures that  we are safe eternally. But a text such as John 6:37 reassures us that  this is not only a matter of divine decree but divine desire. This is  heaven’s delight. Come to me, says Christ. I will embrace you into  my deepest being and never let you go. 
Have you considered what is true of you if you are in Christ?  In order for you to fall short of loving embrace into the heart of  Christ both now and into eternity, Christ himself would have to  be pulled down out of heaven and put back in the grave. His death  and resurrection make it just for Christ never to cast out his own,  no matter how often they fall. But animating this work of Christ  is the heart of Christ. He cannot bear to part with his own, even  when they most deserve to be forsaken. 
“But I . . .” 
Raise your objections. None can threaten these invincible words:  “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” 
For those united to him, the heart of Jesus is not a rental; it is  your new permanent residence. You are not a tenant; you are a child.  His heart is not a ticking time bomb; his heart is the green pastures  and still waters of endless reassurances of his presence and comfort,  whatever our present spiritual accomplishments. It is who he is.

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