Sermon preached in Rye Lane Chapel, Sunday morning, June 2nd, 1957
"What must 1 do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house."-Acts16: 30/31
THE present series is designed for those who may recently have become interested in the things of God. There were a number who received blessing in the recent Mission. They were concerned to enter into the joy of salvation. I hope this series will be helpful to such in consolidating their position. There may be others who are professing Christians who yet find their interests mingled. They cannot appreciate the isolation of the Christian. They find themselves much in correspondence with the thought and practice of the world around them. If it were not for issues beyond the grave they would have to acknowledge that, if they were really considering their day to day interests, they would be obliged to look to society in general rather than God's people in particular, for the joy of life. While I could not for one moment speak of any particular individual, I am bound to say that I think there are persons whose names are on our Church Roll who are not truly converted. I do not for one moment suggest they are hypocrites or deceivers. I believe they hope that they have the real thing but they cannot make much of it. Now I hope to put before you some of the most important practical issues which concern your salvation.
YOU MUST BE SERIOUS
And first let me say that you cannot become a Christian unless you are interested seriously in the issue. We know of course, that flippant, careless people, even those who ridicule the Gospel, have been saved, but they were not flippant or careless or indifferent at the moment they were saved. As the first consideration you must be interested and serious. People have the idea they can treat serious things with contempt. They can and do and so long as they continue to treat them with contempt so long will they continue under the inevitable judgement of God; for if we only realised the truth we should know that our contempt is the counterpart of God's wrath.But here this morning let us be interested! That interest may arise in our hearts from various causes but I think probably one of three and any combination of them.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS
You cannot, of course, hear about Jesus from the Word of God without realising that in spiritual stature He is unique. When you read that He is the Word of God made flesh and that with absolute infallibility He manifests God in the common affairs of a human daily life then you will be interested. When you read that His is the life that is acceptable to God then you should be interested. When you contemplate the extraordinary extent of His influence in the human race you are bound to be interested. Or interest may be aroused by the:
SMITING OF CONSCIENCE
The gaoler of Philippi was suddenly filled with fear. In his case it was an earthquake with the possibility of the escape of all his prisoners. It may be that all his fears were for issues in this life. They may be so in yours and mine. We begin to see circumstances mounting up against us, we get overwhelmed, we tremble and fear about the present or the future. We get worried and this may at last get us interested and it will do so when the mind really takes in the truth that the wages of sin is death. Or the interest may be quickened by:
THE INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANS
who appear to you to be strange and fanatical and yet you know deep in your
heart they have something you have not. The gaoler had taken the two apostles,
he had made their feet fast in the stocks yet at midnight they were singing
praises to God. They had submitted with meekness and patience. The magistrates
did not know it then but they were to know it later, that they had placed themselves
in peril by flogging Paul who was a Roman citizen. If I may speak on behalf
of all present who are true and sincere believers we do deplore anything in
our lives that has not been or is not truly of the spirit of Christ. We do long
that everything about us as Christians may excite within you a desire to know
what you must do to be saved.
Or it may be that the future will grip your interest. You can see in the realm of education how important school days are to a boy or girl. What if these 70 years are but a preparation? What if our eternal future is being determined by our attitudes and decisions now? I solemnly believe they are, and once you grasp that fact you are bound to be interested. In the Gospel and in the Gospel alone are the issues of eternal life and eternal death.
THE REAL ISSUE IS OUR SIN
When once this interest is aroused we automatically become conscious that the issue is one between ourselves and God. That sense will grow until we are convinced that beyond the shadow of a doubt, that all unsettlement, all disturbance of real peace finds its explanation in disturbed relations with God. The preacher then has the answer from the word: " Be ye reconciled to God." This call to reconciliation is realistic. We all know that in human relations reconciliation is a very real experience. It requires mutual accommodation because in any human issue the two parties are not on one side absolutely right, and on the other absolutely wrong. There has to be a yielding. But when we discover this need of reconciliation with God we are confronted with two remarkable facts. First that all the wrong is on our side. We have a nature that really hates God and the thought of God. That evil nature has done nothing but evil. We are the children of wrath doing evil from the heart. Of all the relationships of life of which we have been utterly unconcerned is our wilful defiant attitude towards God. In this, one can blame God for nothing. The entire responsibility rests securely on our own shoulders. Anything less than this will indicate a defective view of the realities of the situation. The Pharisee in the parable delighted to muse upon his own righteousness but the publican knew himself to be a sinner, a rebel against God and deserving of judgement and therefore his attitude of mind and heart was one of penitence. He knew that he needed reconciliation with God and that could only be on his side by penitence. What else can be done? No reparation is possible for a course of rebellion against God. Whether we become Christians or not, whatever indeed may be the result of our approach to the things of God we must in some way take upon our lips and know the conviction in our hearts: " Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight."
THE REVELATION IS CHRIST
The second fact that confronts us is that while we stand before God without excuse, and reconciliation requires our unequivocal repentance before God yet in so doing we are confronted with Jesus Christ as God's representative to us, declaring that already while we were in a state of sin and sinning, God has given validity to our repentance by Himself in Christ meeting this need of reconciliation. For here is a deep secret. No reconciliation is ever possible without it the parties to it mutually bear and suffer the wrong each has done to the other. There must be forgiveness at a cost. There is no forgiveness without it. The price of discord can never be paid entirely by the one who causes the misery. Something of that price must be paid by the one who suffers the misery. That is why human relations so frequently break down. But sinner, just see: Here is Jesus, in His body on Calvary bearing the sin of the world. If God places the condemnation on you, the sinner, He places the problem of dealing with your sin upon Himself! You have the burden of conviction. God takes the burden of deliverance! " Behold the Lamb of God." As your soul writhes in the agony of the conviction of sin, behold Him Who writhes in the agony of discharging it and let the agony of your committing sin, find a harmony with the agony of His soul in bearing sin. This is the Gospel mystery. Somewhere in the way of salvation these two tremendous emotional facts must be experienced in the being. The sin that calls forth a deep repentance which gets deeper and more profound as you hold in the heart the mystery of God in Christ bearing the sin that separates you from God.
FAITH BROUGHT TO BIRTH
In that deep emotion, a true emotion, by the mercy of God, faith is created. It is ever the gift of God. As God has met your sin in the blood of Christ so you meet Christ in simple faith. He is to you SAVIOUR. There is a lot in a Name. Jesus is LORD. There is no homage to Him that is not His due and yet the homage is empty and meaningless until this mysterious address is taken upon the lips: " MY SAVIOUR." In that faith is both created and expressed. From it flows the pardon and forgiveness of the past, reconciliation to God and God will confirm to you by unmistakable signs, that indeed you are a Christian, by the grace and mercy of God, you believe and in believing you are SAVED!
THE SINNER AND THE SAVIOUR
As to our sin there must be unequivocal acknowledgment, sorrow and penitence before God. Whatever we may have done to our fellows we must see that the wrong is towards God and our cry must be to Him: "God be merciful to me a sinner." As to the fact of the Cross in the blood of Christ we see the redemptive love of God that achieves the expiation of our sin, the absolving of our guilt, the cleansing of our hearts and the restoration of our fellowship with God. God does not bring His Son to the Cross to call out our better nature in response. We have no better nature to which God can appeal. The blood is shed in expiation. Jesus becomes for me my sin bearer "made sin " by an act of God and in the mystery of penitence and faith in Him "made sin" for me by the grace of God I am reconciled to Him.
God meets sin! The impact of holiness and sin is blood! Not
the blood of the sinner but of my Saviour. In this strange and profound revelation
the sinner knows that sin and the sinful nature from which it has proceeded
are both dealt with in the death and the resurrection of Christ. From that fact
unveiled to the depths of the sinner by the Holy Spirit proceeds a flood of
deep and profound emotion. God's grace in the blood of Christ that proceeds
out of the innermost depths of Deity reaches into the corresponding depths of
the sinner. The sinner is more conscious of his sin than ever before. He is
moved to the same depths concerning himself as God has been moved concerning
Him. With what amazement does faith reach out to God and find the warmth and
tender love of a full and free salvation.
In this profound experience of grace I become a Christian!
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