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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Choose Your Destiny # 3

Choose Your Destiny # 3

These playboys, these rich playboys we read about, they've had all the education they could get, they have all the money and the best clothes, and the best cars and the best homes and the best food and they're exposed to the ... I use the word "best" not in its moral sense at all but in the sense of the finest that can be had with money and prestige and yet they're playboys and they live their lives out and every once in awhile you'll hear some old, wrinkled playboy dying - and they all do after awhile, as we all do. He's had all the women he's wanted because he had the money to buy them. And he's had all of the acceptance in society because he had money and his name was in the paper and now he's got to die. And he dies as a fool dies for he dies without thought of consequence. He lived without thought of consequences and made his choices but he may think about them when he's dying but it's too late then.

It doesn't make any difference about the IQ, I say. The difference is not a mental one but a moral one. It's not even - it is a moral one, but it's further in yet than that for morals as I understand and use the word has to do with ethics and righteousness and my relation to my fellow man and myself but it's deeper in than that. It's in the spirit of man. In the Bible a wise man is not a man of high cultural levels, necessarily - he could be. In the Bible a wise man is a man who acts with an eye to consequences. He thinks "What will the result of this be?" And then he acts in a way that will bring him consequences that he won't have to be ashamed of or afraid of in the day to come. And this explains wisdom and folly as God sees it.

There was that man that our Lord told about and called a fool. I don't think his neighbors said he was a fool, I don't think they did. I think that if he stopped to nod to a farmer along the road the farmer hustled home and told his wife. "What do you think, Mabel, Mr. So-and-so nodded to me today and called me by my first name." And if he went to a Grange meeting he would be the first one to get the floor. Everybody would sit down while he talked. And if he ran for some little office he would get elected. Why? Because he was a land owner a big farmer and a big guy and a big wheel and he had to tear down his barns and build bigger ones because he'd had a bumper crop. And when his hired men came in with their hats twiriling around their thumbs awkwardly and shifted from foot to foot and  said "Mr. So-and-so, boss, we have more to acre out on the south forty than we've ever had! You won't believe it when I tell you how many cartloads of wheat and corn I've brought in! And we've filled the barns!"

"Well," he said, "We're going to have to do some remodeling." He rubbed his hands and he went out and remodeled. Then he ate his supper. Talked to his wife all the time about his big barns, and the grain. And as he was eating he said "I don't feel so well." His wife said, "Oh, you're busy today, all the excitement and all. Get to bed early."

So he went off to bed that night and his wife went up later. She spoke to him. She was getting herself ready for bed; she tried to carry on a conversation;she got no answer. She raided her voice a bit; got no answer. Finally went over and looked at him and then shook him and then screamed.

"This night thy soul has been required of thee, thou fool!" said Jesus.

An educated man, a man of some standing in the neighborhood. A wealthy man, a man who looked ahead. But a man who never thought beyond his last heartbeat! He was a fool! Our Lord said so! Hell is full of fools and Heaven is full of wise men. And there'll never be a fool in Heaven and there'll never be a wise man in hell according to God's definitions. For according to God's definition a fool is one who acts without regard to consequences and who chooses without thinking of eternity and nobody will be in Heaven like that. And according to God's definition a wise man - I may have mixed that up - but I'm trying to show the difference between two. The wise man is the one who chooses thinking of tomorrow and Heaven will be filled with men like that. And hell will be filled with the opposite who lived for today. And not necessarily evil men.

The idea that God loves evil men and can't stand a decent man is a modern heresy! It's not true and never was true! There's nothing in the Bible to lead us to believe that it's true. But if the evil man became wise long enough to make his eternal choice in the light of eternal consequences and chose God and Christ and the blood of the Lamb and repentance and deliverance from sin he's a wise man and God accounts him such and Heaven will be filled with such.

And if the good decent fellow who lives a decent life on earth and was well thought of by the people and perhaps preached into some kind of gentle limbo when he died - the pastor didn't have quite the courage to say that this upstanding citizen's in Heaven knowing he's a scoundrel, though reasonably decent and everybody liked him. Why, if he didn't preach him to heaven he preached him to the front gate. You've been present at funerals where there were men who never turned their face upward to look at God. They ate and drank, and never like the chicken that drinks and looks up to God, or never like the bird that sang His praise but thought only of themselves and lived for themselves yet they're pretty decent fellows. Pretty decent fellows, they are. I know a lot of them.

But they are fools because they made their choices. They chose whom they wanted to marry and they married that person but they didn't think of eternity when they did it! They chose what they wanted to do with their money and they did it. They chose what they were going to say and they said, as the brother read in the Psalm this morning, "Our mouths are our own, our tongues belong to us. Who can tell us what to say with our tongues?" So they said what they would but they didn't think of the judgment day and tomorrow and the awful face of God and the great white throne ... and they were fools!

Hell, I say, is full of fools and Heaven is full of wise men! There are wise men in Heaven who couldn't read and write when they were on earth and there are fools in hell who had degrees after their name like the tail on a kite! They knew everything but the one thing .... They were fools!

"Therefore choose," says the Holy Spirit. And the great main choice is between life and death. Now I ask you to notice that what you shall choose  has been decided for you. But what you shall choose has been left to your own decision. It's already been decided that every man has to chose. We can't escape that. "Choose you this day," says the Holy Spirit. But what we choose is left to ourselves. The eternal decrees of God that our Presbyterian friends like to talk about take in this: that I must choose, but they do not take in what I choose. As soon as the eternal decrees determine what I choose I'm no longer a free moral agent. I'm no longer free at all. I'm a tomatom, a Mr X, an electric brain and God controls me from heaven and I have no choice of my own.

Now, brethren, free choice is necessary to holiness just as it is necessary to sin. If a man can't sin, he can't be holy. Because if he can't sin he isn't free and if he isn't free he can't be holy for holiness is moral freedom of choice resulting in a right choice, a choice of holiness and righteousness. 

~A. W. Tozer~

(continued with # 4)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Choose Your Destiny # 2

Choose Your Destiny # 2

The idea that justification is imparted righteousness and that it is a robe of righteousness put over a dirty filthy fellow who terribly needs a bath and that that dirty, filthy fellow filled with cooties and the accumulation of dirt of his lifetime will stand boldly in God Almighty's holy Heaven among seraphim and cherubim and archangels and the spirits of just men made perfect and blithely and flippantly say "I belong in hell. I'm a filthy man but what are you going to do about it? I have on me the robe of Christ's righteousness and that's enough." This is a heresy as terrible and as devastating as the heresy promulgated by the falsely-called Jehovah's Witnesses!

God saves only sinners and He saves only sinners who know they're sinners who admit they're sinners but He saves sinners from being sinners to being good men and women and full of the Holy Spirit!  And when we teach anything else we're teaching heresy! A frightful heresy! The choir sang tonight the song of John Newton. John Newton was a Puritan and John Newton would have been horrified and stood if he had heard the doctrines that we're hearing now!

One man wrote a book or a tract or something and called it "Only Bad Men Go to Heaven." Trying to impress upon the listeners that self-righteousness wouldn't get you into heaven - that's true; trying to impress upon us the idea that it was only by grace and faith and that not of ourselves it's a gift of God and that's true; trying to impress upon the minds of the people that no man by his good works or his good deeds or his good acts can ever be good enough to get to heaven and that he must stand in the righteousness of Christ.

But making, nevertheless, by that kind of a statement the grace of God and turning it into lasciviousness! NO BAD MAN EVER GOES TO HEAVEN! The harlot and the idolator and the liar and the fearful and the unbelieving shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone!

Now, I say that each act has consequences in our moral structure, in what we are, which is by far the most important thing about you. Nobody, nobody fools me by their dress. And certainly nobody fools the Holy Spirit! And nobody impresses the Holy Spirit by how good looking he or she is nor the color of their skin. Nobody impresses the Holy Spirit with their education or their degrees nor where they've been or how many stickers they've got on their suitcase. I preached one time at Wheaton College and I told the professors, God bless them, it's a good college, they gave me a degree - but I told them that this idea that we go around the world and come back all over with stickers - I said, "Go home and wash the stickers off, Professor! We don't care where you've been, we want to know where you're going!"

And our consequences, our choices, I say, have consequences in our moral structure either to strengthen virtue or to rot the nerve center of virtue. You've met people whose virtue has been rotted, like a tree ready to crash, it's rotted at the core and center. And then it has a secondary consequence in what it does to others. For no man lives to himself and no man is an island, as they're saying now. And either directly or indirectly you are deeply influencing somebody else. You don't know who it is, maybe, or maybe you do, but you're deeply influencing somebody. And if you're a carelessly-living Christian there may be persons who will use your careless life as a shield, a hiding place for their own much more serious iniquity! Or, there may be those who kneel at night and thank God for you, and say "God, make me like brother So-and-so, make me like Mrs. So-in-so." It can be either way for deeds have consequences and deeds are the result of choices. Impulsive choices, but choices. Carefully thought-out choices, but choices.

And I say that our most vital acts are our choices, always, our most vital acts! No act has as far-reaching consequences at the act of choosing. I repeat, everything we are, is a result of choices we made, everything we are today is a result of choices we made yesterday. And everything we will be tomorrow will be the result of choices  we make today. And those choices may be good or they may be bad; they may be ignorant or they may be well-advised; they may be impulsive or they may be after much thought made; they may be made out of spite.... Many a pair of lovers have had a blow-up and a fight and the girl rushed out and married somebody else and said "I'll show that twerp!" And then she lived with her second choice for a lifetime and whispered to people who knew here in years to come "This was the mistake of my life!" Selfish choices, cowardly choices,choices that are made because we're afraid to make 
other ones and careful choices ... we can make them and wise, unselfish,far-seeing, courageous choices, humble,faith-inspired, God-obeying choices, we can make all of those.

Now, I'm asking you this night about your life and character and reminding you that how you are today, what you chose yesterday to be, because neither the blessing nor the curse comes causeless. We must live and continue to live in the light of choices and consequences and this distinguishes the wise man from the fool that the wise man knows that he must give account of the deeds done in the body and the fool doesn't.

I don't like to use the word "fool" because it's not a good word, it's a contemptuous word and I wouldn't use it myself. I don't think that I would say, without some hesitation, that any given man was a fool. But in the Bible the word is used quite a lot and a fool in the Bible is not a man of retarded mentality. He's not even a man who may have lost his mind. In the Bible, a fool is a man who acts without regard to consequences. It has nothing to do with his IQ, nothing to do with his education, nothing to do with his cultural level.

~A. W. Tozer~

(continued with # 3)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Choose Your Destiny # 1

[A sermon preached at Avenue Road Alliance Church by A. W. Tozer]


Choose Your Destiny # 1

Now, there's a voice that's speaking to us tonight. In the Word and out of Heaven this voice speaks ... and it says "Consider". And consider means, of course, to look at closely and to think about seriously. And all society is conspiring to prevent us from doing this.

Organized human society wants us to do everything but this one thing: consider our ways. And the Holy Spirit says "Consider your ways". Now this is more important than any other thing that you could consider. You may give consideration to a house, to a car, to a journey, to health, to insurance, to any one of a number or of many legitimate things. But more than all these it is important that you consider your ways. And when the scripture says "Consider your ways" it means consider your moral ways. Now it's vitally important that you study this. More important than any branch of learning that you might engage in anywhere at any time, that you give careful, serious, intelligent and honest consideration to your ways. And I ask also that you'll notice that it's your own ways that you are to consider. And this is exactly contrary to our common habit. For our common habit practically never is to consider our own ways but always to consider other people's ways.

The Pharisees were a classic terrible example of people who knew the sins of everybody but themselves. They did not know their own sins. They considered the sins of the harlot. They considered the sin of the tax collector. They knew the sin of the drunkard. But they never knew their own sin at all. Society's not only in a conspiracy to prevent us from considering ... but it is in a particular conspiracy to prevent us from considering our own ways. And since the human mind is so constituted that it must consider something, we compromise by considering other people's ways.

We read the newspapers and we tut-tut and scold and raise our eyebrows and we can't understand why people do the things they do. But the scripture says not consider the criminal in the newspaper account, it says consider your own ways. And it is the work of the Holy Spirit to focus my attention upon my own ways. And now as we do this I want you to set your ways over against this one thing tonight: the law of choices and consequences.

Now, everything is related to its past and to its future. Every act that is committed, every thing that exists, every word that you utter, and every deed that you do is related to two things: it's related to the past, as a consequence; and it is related to the future, as an effect which will produce another consequence. The simple illustration as I often give, is that of the egg in the nest, the egg lying in the nest is an effect of another act, the previous act, the bird, the act of the bird that laid it, but while it is an effect, a consequence of an act it is also the cause of another thing, and that is the new bird that will be hatched out after awhile. It is a link between what was and what will be and so are you and so is every thought you have, and so is every deed you do alike between something that made you do or think or say this thing and that which will be the result of your having said or thought or done this thing.

Now, everything is a consequence. The curse doesn't come causeless and the blessing doesn't come causeless. Everything is a result. Everything is an effect. It is an effect of something else. But everything is not only a consequence of something else, everything has consequences in something else. And the simplest word that you uttered today was a result of some conditioning of your mind and heart yesterday. And this simplest, most casual utterance today will have consequences - they may only be mild but there will be consequences, tomorrow. For everything you are or say or do or think resulted from some choice you made and everything you are or do or say or think will result in some future saying or doing or being or thinking.

Now, everything has consequences of dual importance so everything is of dual importance. It is important for what it is in itself and it is important for what it causes to be. It is important, we being intelligent and moral creatures, we are accountable for our acts. I think it would make a wonderful difference in our lives if we were to remember, and if we were to believe that we are going to be accountable for our acts, that we are going to give account to God for every deed and every word. And we're intelligent and we're moral, we have quality and therefore we will be accountable, and each act that we do has consequence in our own moral structure.

I am not sure but this may be, finally and at last, the most vitally, terribly important thing about consequences and acts and effects and causes, that is what everything does to our own moral structure. What it does to our lives. For what we are will determine our destiny. Our moral fabric will determine heaven or hell for us. This cheap, modern idea that we go to heaven by kind of a nickel-in-the-slot, pull down the lever and take out your ticket idea, and that if I accept Jesus I go to heaven and if I don't accept Him I go to hell - I heard a man on the radio not long ago telling, and trying to make it very plain that it didn't require righteousness to go to heaven, it required nothing but accepting Jesus.

Well, what he forgot was the act of accepting Christ if it is a true indeed act of accepting Christ has an instant effect upon the whole moral life and it changes the man from being a bad man to being a good man. It is ridiculous to say that heaven is the garbage pail for all the wickedness of men, only by grace the Lord takes foulness in! No king ever took the garbage pail into the king's parlor! And God is not going, by some trick of grace, to take evil, foul-minded, self-righteous and vile people into His heaven. When He saves a man, He saves him from sin! And if he's not saved from sin he's not saved at all! And there is no act of grace and no trick of mercy and no trick of justification that can take an unholy man into the presence of God or take an evil man into God's holy Heaven! He came not to call the righteous but people who knew they were sinful! But when He calls us to Himself and saves us, He saves us out of our past and out of our iniquity and by the twofold act of justification, or the threefold act of justification, regeneration, and sanctification He makes people fit for heaven!

~A. W. Tozer~

(continued with # 2)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Except Ye Repent # 18

Except Ye Repent # 18

But Is Repentance Desirable?

And now, I come to discuss, in this closing chapter, what many will feel should have been the first question raised and settled: Is repentance after all desirable?

According to much of the humanistic thought of the day there is no occasion whatever to call upon mankind in general to repent. In fact, we are told, he who does so shows that he fails to appreciate man's innate dignity and praiseworthiness. The evolutionist point with pride to the abysmal depths of bestial ancestry from which man has struggled upward to his present exalted position. What some call sin is but the slowly conquered animal traits which, it may be hoped, will be outlived in future centuries. It is not for this magnificent thinking creature to repent of anything, certainly not of his upward progress. If he condemns himself as a "miserable sinner" he fails to appreciate his glorious heritage. He is the child of all the ages; he has come the long, long way from a tiny speck of protoplasm to the dignity of a cultured twentieth century genius. Shall he repent that he is not what he once was? Does he not know that every fall has been a fall upward? Was it not by unceasing struggle with superstition, ignorance, and unwholesome environment that he has reached his present high estate? To command him to repent and to do works meet for repentance is to insult him to his face. [Oh, Lord, have mercy on us all!]

And then there are those who have given their adherence to various highly lauded religious cults of widespread acceptance, all of which are based upon the proposition that a man is but a manifestation of God and that what the Bible calls sin is merely an "error of mortal mind." The realization of man's own deity in order that he may ever be "in tune with the Infinite," and so declare confidently, as Jesus did, that "I and my Father are one" will, we are told, enable us all to demonstrate the essential unity of the human spirit with the divine. But if this be so, there is no place for repentance. Repent of what - that I am one with God? Surely not. So these teachers, however much they may quarrel among themselves as to terms, all insist that the path of life and the way of peace are to ignore all that seems to be evil and to be occupied alone with the good and the true. "Condemn not thyself," is a favorite saying. And the devotees of all these systems consciously or unconsciously seek to build themselves up in spirituality and to rise to higher moral and ethical planes by means of constant repetition of the Coue formula [if one believes he is getting better, than he is better]

"Every day, in every way,
I am getting better and better."

Of course, this kind of argument is only another form of the old and very familiar philosophy of the bootstrap. We do not have bootstraps on our shoes, but many act as if their minds had something of the kind and they were diligently trying to lift themselves to higher heights by pulling on them.

Often we are told that it is degrading and belittling to cry "Repent!". We should rather shout, Advance! and forgetting the past reach forth to the better things the future has in store. Did not Paul tell us in that very Epistle how he once gloried in his fleshly religion until the vision of the risen Christ brought him to repentance, so that what things were gain to him he now counted but as terrible and as dross in order that He who had manifested Himself to him might henceforth be magnified in him whether by life or death. Now he could forget the things behind and reach forth in holy expectation to the things beyond, "the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

For nearly a century the world has been drinking at the fount of these strange philosophies, and one might have thought that by now, if they were true at all, we would see a great improvement in the human race. But lust, cruelty, corruption, and violence were never more prominent than in these strangely unsettled years since the close of the World War - the war that was to end all war and henceforth make the world safe for democracy. But the nations are still in turmoil as the iron of imperialism and the miry clay of Sovietism struggle for the mastery. The horrors of the Ethiopian massacres, the unspeakable cruelties of Russian Bolshevism, the bloody strife in Spain, the desperate conditions still prevailing in China, together with ominous forebodings of coming class conflicts all over the so-called civilized world, show that the nations are far from realizing the idealism in which their salvation is supposed to be assured. [and look at the world conditions since this was written. These things, and more terrible things, are only getting worse.]

No, man is not Godlike. He is not at one with the infinite mind. He is not a great, heroic figure dominating the ages. He is a poor, needy, sinful creature who will never find the path of peace until he humbles himself before high Heaven and repentantly confesses his manifold iniquities and looks to the Cross of Christ and to the Holy Spirit of God for twofold deliverance, justification before God and practical sanctification of life, through the power of the Word applied to Him who alone produces a second birth and comes to indwell all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to the salvation of their souls.

Applied psychology, psychiatry, and ethical culture, will NOT bring this about. Whatever value there may be in the wise use of these systems, so far as combating certain conditions of the mind is concerned they are utterly powerless to change the heart of man or to produce a new life. J. R. Oliver in a recent volume entitled Psychiatry and Mental Health, which is well worth reading, frankly confesses that after all the varied needs of mankind can best be met by "the divine Psychiatrist, the one great Physician of the soul." He rightly declares that if we but know Him and walk with Him, all books on mental science, moral theology, marriage and birth control, will all the well-meant regulatory laws which have been tried or proposed to curb the evil desires of men and nations, could be safely discarded, for in Christ is found all that is needed to give us moral and spiritual health. To turn to Jesus as the Great Physician is to repent, for He came to heal - not the well - but the sick. His message was for those who had lost their way. What His enemies said of Him in derision and contempt is blessedly true and the cause for everlasting praise, "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them."

But so long as men insist on attempting to justify themselves and their behavior they are under the divine condemnation. It is concerning him who cries, "I have sinned and perverted that which was right and it profiteth me not," that the voice of God exclaims, "Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom." (Job 33:14-30). We are told in Psalm 76:10, "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain." It is another way of saying that all confessed sin shall be made to serve in the working out of God's eternal purpose. Where recognized guilt leads to repentance, the forgiven man rises to a consciously higher plane than he would otherwise have attained. Our sin becomes the dark background that better displays the lustrous jewel of divine grace. We know God better as forgiven sinners than Adam knew Him, as unfallen in that first earthly Paradise. It is this that makes the joy of heaven as great as the redeemed adore the Lamb and sing His praises who was slain in order that He might wash us from our sins in His own blood. Not one voice in that wondrous choir will attribute merit to other than Christ Himself.

In a recent book, in which one was objecting to expressions such as these, the writer challenged those who habitually confess themselves miserable sinners and acknowledge that they have left undone the things they ought to have done and done the things they ought not to have done, to dare to say such derogatory things of themselves when applying for a position of trust in some reputable firm, and the implication was that if such language was not suited as between man and man, it was not proper between man and God.

One does not have to be a "deep thinker" to see the fallacy of this. A man is hired by a firm because of his supposed ability and trustworthiness. But men's standards are altogether different from those set forth in the Holy Scriptures. Righteousness is emphasized in our dealings with our fellow men; holiness when it comes to relationship with God. A man's life may be outwardly correct and righteous, while his heart is corrupt and unholy. "The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." He desires truth in the inward parts.

It is the pure in heart who shall see God. Therefore the absolute necessity of the new birth, apart from which there can be no spiritual enlightenment. The heart of the natural man is as a nest of every unclean and hateful bird; all sorts of evils come forth from it. The mind of the unsaved man is incapable of grasping heavenly realities. His understanding is darkened because of the ignorance that is in him. When he accepts God's testimony he takes the position of repentance, and is in an attitude where God can reveal to him the wonders of redeeming grace. In no other way can guilty man be reconciled to God, who beholdeth the proud afar off, but is nigh unto every broken and contrite heart.

If these pages fall into the hands of any anxious, troubled soul, desirous of finding the way of peace and earnestly seeking to be right with God, let me urge such a one to give up all struggling. Just believe God. Tell Him you are a sinner for whom the Saviour died, and trust in Christ alone for salvation. His own word is clear and simple: "Verily, verily I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death into life" (John 5:24).

To hear the Word is to receive God's testimony, and this is the very essence of repentance. When he who has spurned that Word bows to its message, even though it tells him he is lost and undone and has no righteousness of his own, he turns from his vain thoughts and accepts instead the testimony of the Lord. It is to such a one that the Holy Spirit delights to present a crucified, risen,and exalted Christ as the one supreme object of faith. He who trusts Him is forever freed from all condemnation. (John 3:18). He is henceforth in Christ,and "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus". (Romans 8:1).

This is not to say his own conscience will never again condemn him, for that is not true. The nearer he lives to his Lord, the more tender his conscience will be. But it does mean that God no longer sees him as a sinner exposed to judgment, but that he counts him henceforth as a child, a member of the heavenly family, accepted in Christ, the beloved of the Father.

In this blessed relationship he has by no means done with repentance. He is called upon daily to judge himself in the light of the Word of Truth, as it is opened up to him by the Spirit, and so to repent of anything that he learns to be contrary to the mind of God. Otherwise he will have to know the Father's chastening rod. "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when  we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." (1 Corinthians 11:31-32). It is in view of this that He says, "Be zealous therefore, and repent."

But I must bring these remarks to a conclusion. I need not multiply words. This book is, perhaps, already much too lengthy for busy readers, though I hope many will take time to examine carefully, in the light of the Holy Scriptures, every position taken. The conclusion of the whole matter is simply this: Repentance is not only desirable, but it is imperative and all important. Apart from it no sinner will ever be saved. God Himself commands all men everywhere to repent. Our Lord Jesus declared, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." That which it is so perilous to neglect should be faithfully preached to all for whom Christ died. And when men receive the message in faith and judge themselves in the light of the Cross, they may know that all  heaven resounds with gladness for "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth" (Luke 15:10).

The glorified throng in heaven will all be there, not because they were holier or in any wise better in themselves than other men, but because, as repentant sinners, they "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." He alone will be extolled as the Worthy One. All others who are ever saved will be saved through His merits alone.

~Harry Ironside~

(The End)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Except Ye Repent # 17

Except Ye Repent # 17

The Preaching that Produces Repentance

In all that I have written I have failed completely to express what was surging up in my soul if I have given anyone the impression that I think of repentance as something meritorious which must be produced in man by self-effort ere he is fit to come to God for salvation. On the other hand I hope I have made myself clear that it is the work of the Holy Spirit producing repentance, that leads any soul to come to Christ in order to be saved. The formula used by Paul the Apostle to describe the substance of his preaching ought to make this plain. He proclaimed to Jew and Gentile alike the necessity of "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."

Since this is the divine order it behooves those of us who seek to give the Gospel to a lost world to inquire as to the type of preaching that is best calculated to produce such results. In other words, what kind of message is needed to bring our hearers to repentance?

And in trying to answer this very proper inquiry let me first say that it is not necessary invariably to use the actual term "repentance" in order to bring about this very much to be desired effect. In many quarters men have attached to the words "repent" and "repentance" meanings that do not properly belong to them. So that there is the possibility that our hearers may altogether misunderstand us if we urge them, in so many words, to repent. They may imagine they must, by some effort of their own, produce that which entitles them to consider that they have attained a state where they are acceptable to God. This is not the truth as set forth in His Word, as every Bible-taught preacher well knows.

But, on the other hand, it is not wise to be too squeamish about the use of an expression which we have seen to be eminently scriptural, and which the Holy Spirit Himself has used in all dispensations. John the Baptist and our Lord, the Twelve Apostles and Paul, preached that men should repent and do works meet for repentance; yet in no case did the thought of anything meritorious on man's part enter into it. Evidently the term used had not then been misapplied as it has been since. But what Biblical expression is there that has not been perverted in the interest of some false system throughout the so-called Christian centuries? Such words as regeneration, justification, sanctification, yes, and even the very word "salvation" itself, have all been grievously misused and the most unscriptural doctrines have been built upon them. Are we therefore to discard the terms themselves, or shall we not rather seek to present them in a right way, clarifying their meaning so far as we possibly can, in order that wrong conclusions may be averted?

So in the present case we want results. How best can men be brought to see their lost condition, and therefore to feel the need of the salvation God offers so freely in His blessed Son? In endeavoring so to preach as to bring this to pass we are not shut up to one method of presentation, however, though the message must always be the same. God has only one remedy for man's lost condition and that is the Gospel of His grace. But the manner in which this is set forth may differ according to the circumstances and the state of mind of the people addressed. Thus Paul was made all things to all men if by any means he might save some. And a somewhat careful analysis of the few sermons recorded in the book of Acts will show us how differently the truth was proclaimed upon different occasions.

Yet in one thing they all were alike - in each instance Christ was lifted up; His life, His death, His resurrection, His glorious return personally, and His power to save, were plainly set forth. The one solitary exception seems, at first glance, to be Paul's sermon on Mars Hill, in Athens. But we need to remember that he was interrupted by a mocking crowd before he had opportunity to finish. He began by a logical, calmly reasoned attempt to prove the unity of the Godhead and so to stress the sin of idolatry - for he was addressing a heathen people - that they might realize their sin and folly. Then he announced that God, who in His patient grace had overlooked much of their past ignorance, "now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31). He was now prepared to tell them of the Lord Jesus and show how God had set Him forth as the one only Saviour. "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter" (v. 32). And so they turned contemptuously away, thus losing, perhaps forever, the opportunity of hearing the Gospel of the grace of God, unfolded in all its beauty and power.

In Peter's sermons, on Pentecost and on the occasion of the healing of the lame man, he could bring directly home to his Jewish hearers their fearful guilt in rejecting the Redeemer whom God had sent, in accordance with the ancient oracles, to save and to bless by turning them away from their iniquities.In great power He pressed upon them their responsibility in regard to Jesus, a responsibility they could not possibly evade.

In each instance conviction seized upon many who listened, and they repented of the great sin of Christ-rejection, and identified themselves with Him whom now they owned as Lord and Saviour by being baptized in His Name.

In Cornelius' house the method of presentation was somewhat different, for Peter was there addressing a Gentile group, but nevertheless a company who were through Jewish contact quite familiar with the hope of Israel. They had heard of Jesus, and of the treatment He had received at the hands of His own nation. Peter showed with all simplicity and clearness how every blessing was bound up with Him. He rehearsed the story of His wondrous life, His sacrificial death, and His triumph over the grave, climaxing all with the glorious message, "To him give all the prophet witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). During the time he was speaking the hearts of his listeners had been responding to the truth. When he made this declaration they, as one man, received the message and the Holy Spirit sealed and baptized them into the body of Christ.

It is true that repentance as such is not mentioned, but it is plainly implied. Turning from all else these Gentiles trusted alone in Christ.

Paul, in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, followed a similar outline, and with amazing results. It is a model sermon for all who would endeavor to preach the Gospel today. There was no effort to be startling or original, no attempt at eloquence or rhetorical flourish, no pandering to the natural desire to win the approval of his audience. Solemnly, honestly, he told the story of Jesus, and showed at the last that all hope for salvation was in Him and in Him alone; "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him, all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not e justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38-39). Then with a solemn warning of the judgment that must fall upon them if they spurned the message of grace, he brought his discourse to a close. The whole city seemed to be stirred by the sermon of the strange preacher, for the Gentiles begged that it might be repeated, at least in substance, to them on the next Sabbath, and the eventual result was that many were converted and a church established in that city ere the Apostle and his companions moved on.

It is noteworthy that so simple a method of presentation should be accompanied with such power. But where the preacher is truly a godly man and seeks in the fear of God to show his hearers their need and then presents Christ - His person and His work - as the all-sufficient answer to their need, the Holy Spirit can be depended on to use the Word in producing conviction and leading to repentance.

The Epistle to the Romans, while not merely a sermon or homily, but rather a careful treatise, is the fullest unfolding of the Christian message given us in the Scriptures. It is true that in this letter we have the Gospel taught rather than preached, and in a certain sense it is the evangel set forth for the clearing of saints instead of for the salvation of sinners, yet God has used it, in whole or in part, to lead thousands to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. He who would preach so as to produce these desirable results cannot do better than saturate his own soul and fill his own mind with the truth as therein set forth.

How much Augustine in the fourth century and Luther in the sixteenth owed to this Epistle! It is the cornerstone of New Testament theology and the battle-ground of the Reformation. From the day that the Vicar-general Staupitz drew the monk Martin's attention to the key verse, "The just shall live by faith," it began to open up the troubled spirit of the earnest young priest, leading him to see the folly of trusting any righteousness of His own, and the blessedness of resting in the righteousness of God as revealed in the Gospel. This was repentance indeed, never to be repented of!

In the opening chapters the inspired writer brings all mankind, as it were, into the courtroom, and proves that all are sinners and guilty before God. The ignorant heathen are not to be judged for rejecting a Saviour of whom they have never heard, but they are already lost  and guilty because of their own sins and will be judged accordingly. He deals with these sins unsparingly and in this becomes an example for all who would faithfully minister the truth to the souls of sinful men.

In the last part of the second chapter he exposes the hypocrisy and wickedness of the more cultured, philosophic class who condemned and despised their more uncouth and barbaric fellows, while themselves slaves to enormities just as vile and abominable in the sight of God. Then he looks at the religious Jew, boasting in the Law and priding himself on being of the seed of Abraham, while his life is such that through him the Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles. He shows conclusively that none can ever hope to attain salvation on the ground of human merit or legal works, "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek." All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." There is none righteous, no, not one." The Law which had been proposed as a test for life had proven to be but a ministry of death and of condemnation. By disobedience all have come under judgment. No future reformation could atone for the past. All the world is brought in guilty before God.

Then comes the wonderful setting forth of the divine provision for man's desperate need. "But now" - upon the proven unrighteousness of all men - "the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe."

Thus the question that perplexed Socrates was answered five hundred years later. Puzzled, he exclaimed, "It may be, Plato, that the Deity can forgive sins, but I do not see how." Christ's vicarious atonement is the righteous basis upon which God "can be just and the justifier of him who believes on Jesus."

Why waste time on substitutes that can never move the conscience and produce repentance when the Gospel is the dynamic of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth? This is the message for our unreal and hypercritical age, as truly as for every era of the past. Men talk of a new evangel for changing times. But the old story of Calvary still meets the needs of sinners - and Christ came not to call  the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. Thousands can bear witness that they never realized how utterly lost and ruined they were until they saw themselves in the light of the Cross of Jesus. No wonder Paul declared, "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." The old hymn is right that says,

"I need no other argument,
I want no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me."

Such was the Gospel of Luther, that set half Europe aflame with love for the Saviour and devotion to God. Such was the burning message of Whitefield, Edwards, and the Wesleys, that transformed untold thousands of lives in the days of the great awakening at the close of 1859-60.

Such was the trumpet call of Caughery and Finney and later Dwight L. Moody, that brought tens of thousands to repentance in the mighty visitations of the nineteenth century in America and Britain.

Such was the forceful evangel of Reuben A Torrey, J. Wilbur Chapman, and a host of other stalwarts as they visited Australia, New Zealand, Britain, and every corner of America in the early years of the present century.

Such was the flaming proclamation of that prince of preachers, Charles H. Spurgeon, as for a generation he ministered by tongue from his London pulpit, and by pen, to millions throughout the entire world.

"And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell" of Munhall, of A. C.Dixon, of Gypsy Smith, of Billy Sunday, of Mel Trotter, of the Stevens brothers, of Mordecai Ham, and scores of like-minded men of God, who in power have set forth men's sinfulness and God's great salvation through Christ's redemptive work, and thereby moved myriads to repentance.

The Salvation Army's marvelous success, in bringing the very vilest to find newness of life when they turned as confessed sinners to Christ, certainly did not rest upon a carefully reasoned  out theology preached in cultured phraseology, but in stressing the awfulness of sin and and its dreadful penalty,and the wondrous grace that provides deliverance for all who will come to the Saviour and find cleansing in His blood.

How pitiable it is to see men, who ought to be winners of souls, turning away from this grand old Gospel to the vapid puerilities of what is vaingloriously termed modern thought, and being content to preach on year after year without ever seeing a tear of repentance drop from the eyes of their hearers or moving any to cry in distress, "What must I do to be saved?!

Back to the Gospel, brethren, if like the men of God throughout the centuries who have turned many to righteousness, you would bring men to repentance and lead them to heaven. This will never result from substituting a social service gospel, which is really no gospel at all, but an attempt to make the Cross of Christ of none effect. By all this I do not mean for one moment to cast a slur upon well-meant efforts to ameliorate conditions under which millions of our fellow men are struggling. Everywhere that the pure evangel has found lodgement in human hearts it has bettered the social environment into which it has found its way. Even unsaved men profit by the love and grace set forth in the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. Men are ashamed to do in the light what they will do unblushingly in the dark, and so the Gospel has curbed many social evils and bettered living conditions, wherever it has been received.

Of old it was said of Paul and his companions when they entered a certain city,"These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also." The trouble with this fallen world is that it is wrong side up. It needs to be turned upside down in order to be right side up. And twenty centuries of missions and evangelistic testimony have demonstrated the glorious fact that civilization always follows in the wake of the story of the Cross, and men learn to think kindlier of one another and to be concerned about the welfare of their fellows when the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto them.

To take the position, as many who are hailed as "great thinkers" do today, that we are not to be so much concerned about individual salvation as we are to seek the social regeneration of the nations, is to be false to our commission, and is a case of sadly misplaced emphasis. Man is made for eternity. His few years here on earth are but as a moment in contrast to that which is to come and which lies beyond the grave. It is of all importance to every individual that he be properly oriented to his Creator - in other words that he be right with God - then all other necessary things will follow.

I recall hearing William Booth, the first general of the Salvation Army say, when explaining his "Darkest England" scheme, that its real objective was, not just the amelioration of social conditions, but first and foremost the bringing of men to repentance that their souls might be saved. I can recall the flash in his eye, and the noble bearing of his commanding figure as he exclaimed, "Take a man from the filth and squalor of the slums, exchange his rags for decent clothing, move him from the stifling stench of the city tenement to a neat little cottage in the pure air of the country, put him on his feet economically where he can make a decent living for himself and his family, and then let him die in his sins, unsaved, and be lost forever at last - really it is not worth while, and I, for one, would not attempt it."

Godliness has "promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." But the only way one can enter into godliness is by turning to God as a repentant sinner and receiving the Saviour He has provided in the Gospel. Therefore the crying need of our degenerate times is for a revival of true old-fashioned, Christ-centered, Bible preaching that will call upon all men everywhere to repent in view of that coming day when God will judge the world in righteousness by His Risen Son.

~Harry Ironside~

(continued with # 18 - "But Is Repentance Desirable?"

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Except Ye Repent # 16

Except Ye Repent # 16

City-Wide Repentance

While repentance is a distinctly individual exercise, yet, we have in the Word of God, as we have already seen, churches called upon to repent, and we learn from our Lord's words, in Matthew 12:41 and Luke 11:32, of the repentance of a city: "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here."

This is most suggestive, particularly in view of the failure of the cities wherein Christ had done most of His wondrous miracles, to turn to God. "If," He declared, "the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes." This was one of the passages that caused great distress of mind and absolute bewilderment to the sensitive sols of Charlotte Bronte and her gifted sisters. If Tyre and Sidon would have repented under such circumstances, why did not a loving God give them a similar testimony in order that they might have been saved from destruction? One answer of course is, that the men and women of these ancient cities will be judged at last only for rejecting the light they had, and not on the ground of knowledge they did not possess.

But from these Scriptures we learn that a city in God's sight is a responsible entity, and that He holds it accountable to obey His word and walk in His truth. This raises a question as to how far ministers of Christ ought to concern themselves about the sins of the cities wherein they labor, and to what extent they should lift up their voices against the evils of the day, when tolerated by those in authority. Many preachers take the ground that the servant of God is to confine himself wholly to explaining the Gospel and to calling individual sinners to repentance. The Lord will deal with civic unrighteousness in His own way and time, we are told, and it is best that pastors and evangelists ignore what it is not in their province or power to correct.

And yet God has unquestionably set His seal in a remarkable manner upon the efforts of some of His honored servants who in their day and generation battled against entrenched wickedness in civic and national affairs. Think of the influence exerted for righteousness by Savonarola in Florence, Calvin in Geneva, Luther in Erfurt, Knox in Edinburgh, Wesley in London and all England, and a host of like-minded men who cried out unflinchingly against the iniquities of the times in which they lived. It is written, "The wicked flee when no man pursueth." But our own Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst, whose name was a terror to privileged sin, well exclaimed, "But they go a lot faster when the righteous get after them."

The prophets of old were set by God over cities and peoples and nations to call them to account for their evil-doing and to summon them to prepare to meet their God. The Saviour, as we have noted, dealt with cities as such, and nothing is more pathetic than His lament over unepentant Jerusalem: "And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation" (Luke 19:41-44). Link with this His impassioned cry as recorded in Matthew 23:37-39: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Surely none can read such passages as these without recognizing the civic consciousness of Jesus. He yearned over men, not only as individuals needing personal salvation, but as community groups which would be blest on earth if they would only heed God's Word and repent.

To many of us the story of the repentance of Nineveh is far more wonderful than that of the miracle of Jonah and the sea monster. People object to the latter as being unheard of elsewhere and so contrary to ordinary human knowledge that it is unbelievable. But where else in all human history do we find a great, godless, pleasure-loving city brought to its knees as in the case of Nineveh? If it were not written in the Word of God and so definitely authenticated by our Lord Himself (as also the instance of the experience of Jonah) we might hesitate to credit it. But here it is, solemnly recorded on the pages of Holy writ.

A great city containing "six score thousand souls that knew not their right hand from their left" - that is, little children - must have had a very large adult population indeed. This vast throng were given over to impiety and wickedness of such gross nature that God could tolerate it no longer and sent His prophet to announce its summary destruction. As in the case of the cities of the plain, whose stench had reached to heaven, He would blot Nineveh from the face of the earth. But the Word of the Lord came home so convincingly to the hearts of the King and his councilors of state that they not only repented themselves, but called upon all in the city to do the same. The results were unparalleled in the history of religious revivals. The entire populace fell down before the Lord in sackcloth and ashes bemoaning their sins and crying for mercy. And God heard and pardoned - much to the disgust of Jonah, who was more concerned about his own prophetic reputation than about  the salvation of an entire people.

Perhaps the nearest thing to this in secular history is the story of Savonarola and Florence, Italy. The impassioned monk, moved to deepest concern by the lasciviousness, the licentiousness,and the godless luxury of the Florentines, inveighed against the city, threatening dire judgment from heaven if there were no repentance, and moved the populace almost as one man. Drawing his messages largely from the last solemn book of the Bible, he preached in the Duomo month after month expository addresses on the Apocalypse. The awful figures of judgment depicted therein he declared to be about to find their fulfillment upon the Florentines and all Italy unless the people repented and turned from their corrupt behavior.

Nobles, merchants, and laborers alike felt the power of his words and at his call they brought their treasures of gold, jewels, and objects of art and piled them in the public square at his feet, to be sold or distributed for the relief of the poor and needy. The churches were crowded with penitent suppliants confessing their sins and seeking divine forgiveness. For a time at least the city was largely purged from its iniquity and men realized their responsibility to seek to glorify God in their lives and with their means instead of living in lusts and pleasures on the earth.

It is true Savonarola was burned at the stake in the end, because of the hatred of a corrupt clergy; in that he but shared the baptism of his Lord and participated in His cup of sorrow.He was, undoubtedly, the most Christlike man of his generation, and he suffered as his Master suffered because he was a witness to the truth. His own words were really prophetic: "A Christian's life consists in doing good and suffering evil." After the lapse of centuries the church that decreed his martyrdom honored him as one of its outstanding apostles. Like Israel of old, the fathers slew him and the children built his sepulcher. So it ever is in this inconstant world.

Calvin's outward regeneration of Geneva is another marked instance of the power of the Word - when faithfully proclaimed - to influence civic life. Unhappily there was a great deal of Old Testament legality about it all, and like most men "who really amount to anything, Calvin made some stupendous blunders, as in the case of Servetus, for which the world has never forgiven him. But his influence throughout was on the side of righteousness and truth, and for this he will be remembered forever and shine as the stars eternally.

Macaulay declared that the Wesleyan revival saved England from the horrors of anarchy and revolution. Yet Wesley's great work was preaching the Gospel and calling sinners to repentance. That message stirred London and the other great cities of Britain to their depths, and even where it did not result in actual conversion to God it made people ashamed of the enormities they had condoned in church and state and led to a national renovation that was an untold blessing to millions.

Jonathan Edwards' clarion call to repentance and faith in God meant more to the young American nations that can now be computed. He put the fear of the Lord in men's hearts and this largely molded the character of the fathers of the republic.

After the terrible war between the states the voice of D. L. Moody was heard throughout the land, and across the seas, arousing, heartening, and bringing spiritual deliverance to many thousands who had lost all that life held dear. Accounted Chicago's most prominent and most valued citizen for a generation, his influence for good in that great city was simply marvelous and, though more than another generation has passed since his voice was hushed in death,"he being dead yet speaketh" and his influence is perhaps greater today than when he was alive. His favorite text was, "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever," and since his death the truth of this has been increasingly manifest.

Observe carefully that these men, and many others whose names might be added to the illustrious list, wrought their works of power, not by mixing in political squabbles, but by faithfully preaching the Word of God, denouncing sin fearlessly and persistently, enjoining men to repent or face high heaven in judgment, exalting Christ Jesus as the only Saviour and the supreme example for all who profess to follow Him, and insisting that outward forms and ceremonies could never satisfy an offended God. There must be true self-judgment, a turning to God from idols to serve Him wholly and to wait for His Son from heaven.

Such preaching inevitably produces results in reformation of life and purification of civic relationship. When the conscience is reached and the will is so captivated by grace that men turn to the Lord and cleave to Him with purpose of heart, all other desirable results will soon manifest themselves.

What is needed in every city of every land is, not a mere "new deal" or a political reformation, but preachers of righteousness who will proclaim the Word God God, crying, "Thus saith the Lord," without fear or favor, faithfully dealing with the problems of the day in the light of the Cross of Christ.

So long as ministers are afraid to expose the vices of the rich lest their collections shrink, or fear to cry aloud and spare not regarding such entrenched evils as the ruthless exploitation of labor, the horrors of prostitution, and the abominations of the liquor traffic, lest they offend some who perhaps directly or indirectly derive a part of their income from these very sources, the world will only despise them and think of them as what they really are, conscienceless sycophants toadying to the wealthy while they attempt superciliously to patronize the poor for outward effect.

On the other hand the clerical demagogue, blatantly advocating godless schemes for the renovation of society that involve, if successful, the very destruction of the church of God itself, is beneath contempt. These men, as a rule, are unsaved and do not even pretend to be born again. Their place, if anywhere, is on the lecture platform, not in the pulpit which they degrade by their utterances. It is one of the amazing signs of our times that in many churches communistic propaganda and similar unscriptural plans for overturning the present unsatisfactory order of society are not only tolerated but applauded. Yet Sovietism is the avowed enemy of God and His Christ, and churches that nurture these enemies of the Cross are sheltering in their bosoms vipers that if not sternly dealt with will sting them to death in the end.

Real Christianity is the truest friend the laboring man will ever know. It provides for happiness, not only in this life, but in the life that is to come. It respects sacredly the natural rights of all men, exhorting the rich to use their wealth for the blessing of their fellows and guiding the poor into paths of contentment and peace. The Gospel received makes the only real brotherhood that the world has ever seen. Tolstoi, disappointed to find how powerless his plausible theories were to move the hearts of men, exclaimed sadly, "I found out that there could never be a brotherhood without brothers." This is the great secret many of our Christless social reformers have never yet learned. Did ministers everywhere realize it, they would cease trying to work from the outside in, and would begin at once to work from the inside out. There will never be a regenerated society without regenerated individuals. Hence he cannot see (nor enter) the kingdom of God."

This Kingdom is not, as many religious leaders would have us believe, simply an idealistic state of human society. It is the aggregate of those who have humbled themselves before God as repentant sinners and received the Lord Jesus Christ as their own personal Saviour: "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Peter 1:23-25).

Let all God-anointed preachers proclaim anew what Spurgeon called "the three R's," Ruin, Regeneration, and Redemption, and we may hope to see again, not only individuals, but whole communities brought to repentance.

To this end we need to get back to our Bibles and back to our knees. Let prayer meetings be re-established in churches where for years there has not been spiritual fervor sufficient to maintain them, and all kinds of entertainments have been substituted in their place. Let the Word of God be given its rightful place, and let ministers and people cease criticizing and sitting in judgment upon it; but, instead, let them study it carefully in dependence on the Holy Spirit for divine illumination. In the light of that Word let our manner of life be sternly judged, putting away every known evil and confessing our past sin and failure. Then may we expect God to be gracious, to grant repentance unto life to cities long given over to our modern paganism, and so to bring again times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.

The days are dark. The need is urgent. Men are dying all about us in their sins. The Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation. Let it be faithfully preached, and it will do its work as of old. Nothing else has the same attractive power or will appeal so winsomely to the weary hearts and troubled souls of the men, women, and children, who make up our great, godless cities, whose appalling need should be a challenge to every preacher of the Word.

~Harry Ironside~

(continued with# 17 - The Preaching That Produces Repentance

Monday, November 28, 2016

Except Ye Repent # 15

Except Ye Repent # 15

Hopeless Repentance

The tragedy of Judas is unquestionably the saddest story of human sin and deceitfulness ever recorded. That one could be in the chosen circle of the intimate friends and disciples of Jesus for over three years, listening to His teaching, beholding the works of power that He wrought, and observing the divinely perfect holiness of His life, and then become His betrayer, seems almost unbelievable. And yet there the record stands in God's holy Word and it will stand forever, "Judas by transgression fell, that he might to to his own place" (Acts 1:25).

We know nothing of his early years except that he was a man of Kerioth, for this is really the meaning of Iscariot. Kerioth was a city of Judea located near Hazor, so we learn from this that he was not, like the rest of the Twelve, a Galilean. He was a Judean, and in all probability had a measure of culture and refinement beyond that of the motley group of northern fishermen and villagers who with him made up the apostolic band. Like the others his first public act of obedience to the call of God was in response to the Baptist's preaching of repentance. When the publicans and sinners justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John, Judas took his place among them. He too stepped down into the mystical river of judgment and submitted to the rite which was intended to show that he owned himself a repentant sinner and was now looking for redemption in Israel.

What his inmost thought really were at this solemn crisis in his life we cannot tell, but we know he began as a disciple of John, for when Peter called for nominations for the vacated office of Judas he reminded his fellow disciples that, "of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts 1:21-22). The necessary inference is that Judas himself had answered to this and that they had known him from the baptism of John until his terrible defection. We do not have any particulars of his call to be one of the Twelve, but there are several others of the company of whom this is also true. In fact, only in the cases of Andrew and Peter, John and James, Philip and Nathaniel, and Matthew the publican, are we given direct information as to how they came to be numbered with the select group.

It is noticeable that in the lists of the Twelve as given by each of the Synoptics (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:14-19; Luke 6:13-16) his name comes last and in each instance attention is directed to him by the words, "who also betrayed him," or, as Luke puts it, "which also was the traitor." What a terrible designation to stand for eternity.

As to the esteem in which he was held by the rest, before his wickedness became known, it is only necessary to say that he was the treasurer of this little group of itinerant preachers, dependent on the bounty of those who responded to their message for daily bread. He "had the bag" and John tells us he "bare what was put therein." The words imply that he misappropriated a part of the common fund. And yet he was trusted, and even Jesus who needed not that any should testify of men, for He knew what was in man, patiently bore with him through the years of his ill doing when, Gehazi-like, he thought he was covering up his tracks. Not only was he the apostolic bursar (a person who manages financial affairs) but he had the honorable position of almoner (an official distributor of money). It was he who was appointed to minister to the poor. On the occasion when Jesus ate the last Passover with His disciples and turned to Judas saying, "That thou doest, do quickly," none suspected what he really referred to. As the traitor passed out into the night they thought he had gone at the Lord's command to give something to the needy.

To what extent he was sincere when he went forth as one of the Twelve, to preach that men should repent and to prepare them for the manifestation of the King, we cannot say and speculation would be useless. But he was with the rest when they exultingly declared, "Lord, even the demons are subject unto us." Did he question or shudder when the Master bade them not rejoice because of this, wonderful as it was, but rather that their names were written in heaven?

Thomas DeQuincey, Marie Corelli, and other literati have sought to build up a defense for Judas and have even attempted to make a well-intentioned but disappointed hero of him. They even go so far as to intimate that the betrayal was, after all, not a positive act of treachery, but simply the ill-considered but well-meant effort of a live man of affairs to commit Jesus to a course for which He was destined, as Iscariot honestly believed but which His humility and indecision made Him slow to take. Such reasoning is preposterous and borders on blasphemy, for it impugns the wisdom for it disputes the honesty of the wisdom and obedience of Jesus Himself, who was ever the Father's delight, doing always those things that pleased Him.

Judas never had a true love for Christ. The incident of the alabaster box of spikenard makes that perfectly evident. To Mary there was nothing too good for Jesus, so she took her woman's treasure, the box of precious ointment, and broke it and poured it upon His head, as He said in deep appreciation of her devotion, for His burial, of which she had probably learned while sitting at His feet. But to Judas, and to others who were more or less influenced by him, this was utter waste. With cool calculation he figured that the ointment if sold would have yielded three hundred denarii, a full year's wages for a Roman soldier or an ordinary laboring man. Cunningly he insinuated that it was wasted on Jesus when it might have relieved much human misery if given to the poor. But it was only to cover up the covetousness of his heart that he mentioned the poor. He was really calculating the use he could have made of so large a sum for his own ends.

Such a man proved to be a ready tool in the hands of a designing and corrupt priesthood. His itching palms would make it easy for him to agree to sell the Lord into their hands for thirty pieces of silver. Did he recall the prophecy of Zechariah as to that, or was he so blinded and had he become so insensate through covetousness that the prophet's words had gone from his memory, if he ever knew them? He probably fulfilled them unconsciously, as he also fulfilled certain prophetic passages in the Psalms, notably, "He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me."

Note his perfect self-command and lack to telltale change of color when all were gathered around the table and Jesus informed them that one of their number should betray Him. Judas asked coolly, "Is it I?" and gave no sign of an accusing conscience. Even the reference to the sop and the grace that led the Lord to give him the choice portion left him unmoved as before. He arose from that feast of love and went out - and it was night. Not only was it night in the natural sense, but it was dark, dark night in his soul, to be unrelieved forevermore. He had turned his back forever on the light. satan had definitely entered into him. He was under control of the spirit that energetically works in the children of disobedience. Christ's words are pregnant with meaning, "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?"

It would seem that just as one may yield himself unto God and thus be filled and dominated by the Holy Spirit, so one can hand himself over to the authority of darkness and be controlled by satan himself. It was thus with Judas. Any qualms of conscience he had ever known were ended now. Any kindly regard for Jesus which had ever held sway in his breast was now forever stifled. Any tenderness of heart he had ever experienced was now changed to hardness like that of the nether millstone. He was sold under sin in the fullest sense. For him there could not be no turning back until his nefarious plot was executed in all its horrid details. The receiving of the money from the wiley priests, the guiding of the mob to Gethsemane's shades, the effrontery that led him to walk boldly forward exclaiming, "Hail, Master!" as he planted a hypocritical kiss on His check - all these tell of a conscience seared and a heart that had become adamant in wickedness.

But even for Judas there came an awakening at last. When he saw how meekly the Saviour allowed them to maltreat and condemn Him his sensibilities were stirred, and although there was no turning to God he regretted his fearful error. I cannot do better than let Matthew himself tell the story:

"Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day."

Since Judas repented, was he not forgiven and will he not after all find a place with the blest even though in his despair he filled a suicides's grave? Our Lord's own words forbid any such conclusion. He declared, when speaking of Judas, "Good were it for that man if he had never been born." This negatives any possibility for him in another world; for, in spite of the enormity of his guilt, if he ever attained to the joys of paradise it would have been well for him to be born.

The fact is, the Holy Spirit, who selects His words with divine meticulousness, used an altogether different word here, from that which we have been considering, for repentance. It is not "metanoia" but "metamellornai" - not a change of mind which involves a new attitude toward sin and self and God, but "to care afterwords," that is, to be regretful or remorseful. Thousands of imprisoned convicts, guilty of most atrocious crimes, repent in this lower sense. They would give much if they had not committed the offenses for which they are now suffering the penalty of the law, but they have never bowed the knee to God nor confessed their guilt to Him. So with Judas. He acknowledged his folly and wickedness to the callous priests who contemptuously replied, "What is that to us? see thou to that," and then were very purictilious (showing great detail to correct behavior)  as to the use they should make of the "tainted money" thrown down at their feet. But Judas went into eternity without one word with God regarding his sin or one evidence of repentance unto life.

Remorse is not repentance toward God. It brings no pardon, no remission of sins. It is but the terrible aftermath of a course of persistent rejection of the Word of the Lord, which, while it leaves the soul in an agony of bitter sorrow over opportunities forever lost and grace despised, works no change in the conscience but leaves it unpurged forever. It is this connection that the history of Judas becomes so important for us. It is God's own warning signal to all who tamper with His truth and grace. To play fast and loose with divine revelation is fatal. Its dire effects abide forever.

There is a soft, easy-going philosophy, much in vogue in our day, that would give men hope of a purifying repentance after death, no matter what state they might be in when life's day is ended. But the case of Judas is the negative answer to all this. Nothing he had ever heard from the lips of the Son of God during those years of intimate association with Him gave the remorseful traitor one ray of hope when he at the last began to apprehend something of the fearful wrong he had done. In his harrowing despair he turned not to God, but sought to get further away from him, and rushed out of the world a self-murderer.

Some have fancied they detected a discrepancy between Matthew's account of his death and that given by Peter in the upper room. But the two passages are easily pieced together. Judas hanged himself, probably in the very plot of ground purchased by the priests for the thirty pieces of silver. Suspended from a tree, the bough to which the rope was tied in all likelihood broke and he fell to the ground, rupturing his abdomen, as he did so, so that "all his bowels gushed out." It is easy to visualize the horrid scene.

What an end to the life of one who had been numbered with the Twelve, but what an unspeakably awful introduction to an unending eternity of woe! Judas is somewhere today. He will exist throughout the ages. And never will he be able to lose sight of the face of the One whom he betrayed and of the Cross upon which He died. But memory will not cleanse his soul. Though the victim of a remorse that must become increasingly poignant as the eons roll on, his must ever be a hopeless repentance because it is based, not on a sense of the wrong done to God, but of the wretchedness in which he involved himself by his stupendous folly. Byron has written:

"There are wanderers o'er the sea of eternity,
Whose bark drives on and on,
And anchored ne'er shall be."

Judas, not Iscariot, has described such as "wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever" *Jude 13). Those who refuse to turn to God in repentance while grace is freely offered are destined to repent when all hope has fled and they shall be as stars eternally out of their orbit. Created to circle round the Sun of Righteousness, they have gone off on a tangent of self-will, and despite all the constraining power of the love of Christ shall plunge deeper and deeper into the outer darkness, driving ever on, farther and farther from the One whom they have spurned and whose mercy they have rejected. It is an alarming picture, and God meant it to be such, for He would not have any man trifle with sin, but He desires that all should turn to Him and live.

It brings us face to face with what we saw before, that character tends to permanence. Men so accustom themselves to certain courses that they lose all desire to change, even though they may realize their behavior entails misery and woe. Hell itself is but the condition that men choose for themselves at last made permanent. By their own volition they unfit themselves for the society of the good and the blessed; moreover they reject the opportunity for the impartation of a new life and nature by a second birth which would make them suited to God in order that they would be at home in His society; and so there is nothing before them but "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day" (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

It is true that God is love, and that He wills not the death of the sinner, but that all should turn to Him and live. It is equally true that He is light; and sin unjudged and unconfessed cannot abide the blaze of His glory, but must seek its own dark level. Of the lost it is written, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment." It implies, in a sense, a certain voluntariness on their own part. Unfitted to abide in the light, like bats and vampires and other evil creatures of the night, they seek, like the infidel Altamont, a hiding place from God. It was he who is reported to have cried when dying, "O, Thou blasphemed and yet indulgent God! Hell itself were a refuge if it hide me from Thy face." Men can sin till, as Whittier so aptly puts it, they "lack the will to turn." For them there may be endless remorse, but no true repentance toward God, and therefore no hope forevermore.

~Harry Ironside~

(continued with # 16 - City-wide Repentance