NOW'S THE TIME
"It is time for Thee, Lord to work; for they have made void Thy
THIS psalm is a perfect acrostic. There are 22 sections in it corresponding with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In the original every verse begins with the letter at the head of each section and there are eight verses in each section, making 176 verses in all. We may think that the arrangement defeats the end the psalmist evidently has in view and that strong views and convictions cannot wait upon such stilted considerations as alliteration. Yet as I read the words of the text I must confess I sense the passion of the writer and indeed feel that as real as was the need in his day for God to act, that need is vastly more urgent today. As the psalmist reflected on the times in which he lived he was thrown to his knees in urgent prayer that the Lord would work: "It is time, Lord, for Thee to act." In effect, as the psalmist reviews the conditions of his own day he exclaimed: "Now is the time." The "now" of his time has passed and we may think that all his deep emotion was unnecessary. That we must leave, for the history of his times would preoccupy us unduly this evening. There was 25 years ago, a very considerable company centred in London with many connections elsewhere who really felt that it could be said: "Now is the time," and if all those in Europe who felt the same would have prevailed with God, things might have been very different. Once again the urge and pressure is upon us and the heart of many a true child of God is beating quickly with the increasing conviction that indeed we may take up the thought of the psalmist and exclaim that now is the time for the Lord to act. Indeed, no thoughtful person can possibly escape this conviction. Consider first of all
1) THE STATE OF HUMAN SOCIETY
Fifty years ago the Union Jack was flying in every part of the world, the Great Britain was tremendously strong, the coloured races were well under control and the white man was the master of the world. All that has gone. Instead we have the great nations of the east and the negroids of Africa all surging forward to secure their liberty, and at the beginning of the second half of this century the face of humanity is being transformed.
At the beginning of the century Britain was fighting the Boers in South Africa. In 1914 we faced the might of Germany and 25 years later the Second World War commenced. On that calculation we are due to begin hostilities again in 1964 and he is an optimist who thinks we can preserve peace even until then. I understand that somebody on television, well qualified to speak, recently declared that a modem bomb dropped on Charing Cross would exterminate every living being between Barnet on the north and Dulwich on the south and that fires would rage right down to the South coast. That may or may not be an exaggeration but the thought is one we cannot lightly set aside.
The only other fact to which attention must be directed is that stated by the psalmist: " they have made void Thy law." The attitude of men and women to God will be sensed by every true believer. The unsaved here this evening will know the pressure of society concerning religion that they are held backpermanently from and outward response to God and . In every direction by every test of morals and faith it can been seen that men and women care little for the law of God. They are not concerned with it, they do not desire to know its terms, they are indifferent to its demands and life is being increasingly lived on the basis of the will of man. Yet it is by the law of God that every one of us ultimately and conclusively is to be judged and our future determined.
So strong is the resistance of the human heart to the Gospel of grace that not only old people, middle-aged, young people, but teenagers and boys and girls are proving to be invulnerable to the word of the Gospel. Workers amongst them who understand this situation and its significance are broken before the Lord as they see the fruitlessness of their labours.
And all this sums up into one word--judgment! As in the days of Noah so it will be again. As it was in the days of Sodom so it will be. As I hear this word "homosexuality," being banded about in conversation and practised in London and many other places, I remember that it is sodomy, the last state of the city of Sodom that involved it in the judgment, not of some neighbouring nation, but in the judgment of God in destruction ! Then there is
2) THE STATE OF THE CHURCH
Very many people who call themselves Christians are not born again of the Holy Spirit, although people who should know better support them in the illusion. Of those who have made profession of faith an appreciable number do not give expression to their faith apart from attendance at a church or chapel. The majority of even active Christians can see social problems much more clearly than they can see the sin problem that can be answered by redemption in Christ alone. The consequence is that many Christians are earnestly and sincerely concerned about the evils of war, of hunger, of poverty, of malnutrition and yet feel no sense of the burden of men's sin. Let us thank God as we do for all, who feel the burden of these evils, but none of them can be dealt with effectively by the Christian except in all the power that lies in the blood of Christ by redemption. If that be not so then Christ has died in vain.
Millions who profess to be Christians are held fast in spiritual bondage by ritual and priesthood. Many in our Protestant churches find their enthusiasms anywhere else but in the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Even those who are evangelical find their fervency ebbing and flowing. Few indeed have the intensity of the woman of Shunem of whom we were thinking last Sunday morning or the corresponding persistence of Elisha in giving all he had of life itself to revive her child. It is indeed a portent when the world is in such an evil and hopeless condition that the indifference of professing Christians to spiritual issues is so marked.
All this, however, seems to be foreseen in the Scriptures; for as the time draws near for the Lord's return features that have been characteristic of human society and of the religious world in every generation, will be emphasised and pinpointed to those who love the Lord. As iniquity grows worse one would suppose that the intensity and passion of the people of God would increase, but in actual fact the love of the many will grow cold. The world indifference to the Lord will be matched by the indifference of the bulk of Christians to the attitude of the world to God's Beloved Son. The whole Society that names itself Christian is almost as dead to its Lord as the world is dead in its sin. What would happen, we may ask, if we were in
3) A STATE OF REVIVAL
I think the general pointer must be found in the record of Pentecost. I believe that if revival came to the people of God conversions would begin to increase in number. Instead of the unsteady and intermittent flow that we now know, men and women would be smitten in conscience under the sound of the Gospel and hearts that are girded continually to resist God would be broken before Him in repentance and faith. It would have its effect in every age group and we should find a real love burden in the hearts of Christians for the unsaved perishing in their sins, at last smitten before God and seeking a Saviour.
We should find every Christian on our Church Roll really alive unto God. The family altar would be established in every home and the cry would go up for God to act. We should gather for prayer with a mighty burden of need and an equally mighty assurance that God would be pleased to break down the sins of saints in order that He might break down the resistance of sinners. We should find reconciliation between God's people where there were differences, and Christians indeed would be concerned to be holy, clean, true and pure, delivered from every handicap, every false affection and indeed everything that grieved the Holy Spirit.
I have not the least doubt that every true believer would be searching the
Scriptures to know just what the Holy Spirit could, and would do, in the heart
of a believer truly yielded to Him. As the realisation of such grace, unction
and power swept into the heart the prayer would go up for the Lord to move through
the individual for all the blessing of the Spirit for which Christ died.
We should see men and women coming forward for baptism on confession of faith not in ones or twos, but in tens and twenties and even more, and the Lord would be glorified in our midst as He kindled the spirit of praise and thanksgiving. By the grace of God
4) THE ISSUES ARE IN OUR HANDS
There are many considerations, but let me mention some of importance.
First we need to surrender our confidence in methods, plans and organisations, valuable as they are, until we have got right down before the Lord. Convinced without the shadow of a doubt that we are utterly at the end of our resources and that it really is time for God to act!
Secondly, we need to be men and women of prayer who know how to concentrate m prayer. Using prayer to give God dissertations, hinting at others and asking for indeterminate blessings must give place to the cry of the heart more earnest than if we were perishing in a house on fire. The hour in which we are living is indeed perilous and fateful! Let us cry out to God to act, let Him know that deep in our hearts we feel and are persuaded that He and He alone is our hope.
Thirdly, let each of us ask himself or herself what sort of a person would we be if we were revived; if God acted in your life and mine? What you have envisaged as I speak you would really like to know in experience. If only God would so take possession of you that it could be true tonight! But revival begins with a hesitation, a fear followed by not God acting as you want Him to act, but by YOUR acting as He wants you to act! Peter longed to walk on the water to Jesus. He asked the Lord to bid him come. He overcame his fears and his hesitation and he stepped out to do what he could not do! And if everybody here this evening would cry out to God to act and then respond as they think they would do if God had acted, the miracle would be upon us!
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