The Blessings The Gospel Brings To Us Now
I want to talk to you about the wonderful blessings that the gospel brings to everybody who receives it now. Some people have the idea that gospel preachers ask people to throw overboard everything that they like, all the vice, all the sin, all the having a good time in this world, for what has been described as 'some pie in the sky'. Have you ever felt that? To be offered a lovely thing far away, rather insubstantial. They can have a jolly good time some time in the future if they throw everything overboard now. They say, 'No. I am going in for a jolly time now. I do not care. I will have my things in this world. I do not believe all the talk about having a good time one of these days, up in the sky'.
I was once taken to a gospel meeting where they sang a hymn whose chorus was:
"......in the sweet by and by,
We shall meet in the home of our Lord."
People say to me, 'You preachers, you want to get us away from having a jolly time in this world by dangling before our eyes the idea that if we drop it we shall have a sweet by and by'. My, friends, I am going to talk to you about 'a sweet now and now'. I am a Christian. At the beginning of last May I passed the seventieth anniversary of the day when I turned in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. I believed God and His word. I saw how the mighty Son of God had swooped into this sinful world, and He Himself offered the great sacrifice for sin, which is the way of the putting away of the sin of all those who believe in Him, and there entered into my heart the knowledge that now I was justified, "being now justified by his blood" (Rom.5:8). And through the Lord Jesus all Christians, however long they have been converted, are justified. Seventy years ago my poor soul, troubled about my sins, entered into the knowledge of peace with God because I was cleared, I was justified in His holy presence. But not only that, now we who believe, receive the reconciliation (5:11). Then, says Paul to the Roman Christians, you were once the slaves of sin, but now, not when we get to heaven (although it will also be true when we do get there), but now we are set free, emancipated, we are passed from under the domination of our old master, sin, to become servants to God (6:22). This is wonderful. It has been on my heart to give a talk here about 'the sweet now and now', the wonderful things that the gospel brings to those who believe it now.
"[Abraham] staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Rom.4:20-25, 5:1-2)
First of all, I would say to those of you who have not thought much about these things, do you realise you need to be set right in the presence of God, you need to be justified? Some of you might say, 'Well, I do not go to church very much. It is one of those terms you religious folk use. What does it mean?' To be justified means to be put in right relations with God, cleared from every accusation that might lie against you in God's holy presence. When I was a young man I remember a man standing in the open air saying to people, 'You have a God to meet, you have sins to account for, you have an eternity to spend'. Anybody who knows the truth of those three statements instantly says, 'I ought to be put right with God'. We are living in a day when the criminals are getting the best of it.
I was in a house only last night when somebody said, 'Crime does not pay', personally I contradict that flatly. It does pay. It provides excitement and adventure. You can blow up a safe and get £25,000, and if there are only a few of you on the job it means you can get quite a lot for yourself. 'Well,' you say, 'you might get caught'. You may, but more often than not you do not, and if you do, well they are not hard on you, you will get just a few years in prison. It is all quite comfortable I am told. Crime does pay until you die, then you meet God. Nobody is going to get away with it. I learnt that when I was a youngster, nobody knew what I had done, but I knew, and God knew, and there was an hour coming when I had to meet God. What was true for me is true for you. Nobody is going to get away with sin ultimately. I think the divine judgment will fall, if there is any differentiation, more heavily upon those who sinned on a higher hand and did, humanly speaking, get away with it. They will be like the rich man in hell of who Jesus spoke in Luke 16:19-31
Your heart and mine ought to be, and I trust it is in some measure, aching if there are any unsaved, unjustified people here who are not cleared from their guilt. How can all this be achieved? By our Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death. The judgment that we deserve on account of sin He undertook to bear it, He was the mighty One who offered this sacrifice, this propitiation, in the meeting of the divine claims against sin. There is justification, the putting right which is the present effect of the gospel for every one that believes. Oh, I would like to say to every one of you if you have not the knowledge of this yet, you will get no rest until you have. It may be yours, you may be now justified in virtue of the blood of Christ.
I often tell the story of the lady who was a great pioneer amongst the deaf and dumb people. She had a deaf and dumb boy and spent a lot of trouble trying to teach him things because there was not much done for such people in those days. She was an earnest Christian lady and little Willie was a very intelligent child, and one day she was trying to teach him the gospel and she showed him a picture. There were three crosses, on the central cross hung Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews, and in the background were pictured a great multitude of people standing afar off beholding these things. And she said (using her fingers), 'That is Jesus on the central cross, and He is dying for men. Look at all these people in the background.' She was surprised when the little boy showed her how intelligent he was by saying on his little fingers, 'But lady, Jesus is only one, and all these are very, very many. How can one die for many?' I believe the lady lifted her heart to God and asked for guidance as to how to explain, and it occurred to her at once what to do. On the table before them was a bunch of rather faded roses in a bowl, and as she put out her hand and touched the rose petals and they tumbled down, so she touched several and collapsed all their petals in to a heap and she tore them up into little bits and scattered them all over the table. As the boy looked on puzzled she took off her wedding ring and put it down and said, 'Which will you have?' There were many petals, but only one ring. Immediately he chose the golden ring. It was only one, but it was one of gold and worth infinitely more than all the petals put together. The golden Saviour, the mighty Son of God, the man, the mighty Creator come into human form. He would be the sin bearer on behalf of guilty men.
When you have One who is marked by eternity and infinity there is no comparison at all, there are thousands of millions of human beings, but He outweighs them all. The Son of God has become the sin bearer. He was "delivered for our offences" (Rom.4:25). I put that in the singular and on my knees in His presence had to say, 'Yes, oh wonder of wonders, Jesus, the mighty Creator, the Son of God, was delivered from my offences, raised again for my justification, it was my clearance from every charge'. The accounts had been paid in the precious blood of Christ. May I know that? Yes, I can know it now. I have known it for seventy years. Do you know it? First you have to be conscious that you need it, you have to face fairly and squarely your life, your sins, some in public, some in private, some of them not known by anyone other than yourself, but all need to be cleared in virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ, and when we preach the gospel we tell you that if you believe, if you turn in faith to Christ, putting your faith and confidence not in yourselves but in Him then justification is yours. It will be yours if in simple faith you come, not pretending to be what you are not, and say, 'Lord Jesus, I am a sinner. I may not have done outrageous things, I may not have been subject to the police or the courts, but I am a sinner nonetheless.'
I had a letter once from a man who had read a book of mine, and he wrote, 'I want to tell you what a blessing your little book has been. When I was ten years old I was sent to an approved school and when I came out I was no better and so they sent me to borstal, and when I came out I was still no better and I have been living a life of petty crime, known to the police, been in and out of prison, and now I am 22 my faith has found Christ and I am saved. I am starting a new life altogether.' By the grace of God He is doing today exactly what
He did for me, and what He has done all through the centuries, what He did for the apostle Paul, and I hope also for you, if you believe.
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." (Rom.5:8-11)
But that is not all, sin not only put every one of us in the criminals dock in God's presence, needing to be cleared from all our sins (that is to be justified), but I discovered when I was converted that there was something wrong in my own heart. The fact of the matter is that in my unconverted days I did not want God. Why not? The Bible word is 'alienated'. Paul says to the Colossian Christians, "You, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath [God] reconciled" (Col.1:21). To be reconciled is to be brought to God in such fashion that, instead of God being a terror to us, someone we want to avoid, we find our joy in Him, we are reconciled, the alienation, the disinclination to have anything to do with God vanishes. What a wonderful blessing that is, and we have it now. Every Christian knows that. If I were to go into a London street and say to a man, 'I want you to come with me to a prayer meeting' he would probably reply, 'A prayer meeting? If you had asked me to go to the theatre or the cinema perhaps even the public house, then certainly I would go, but I have never been to a prayer meeting in my life!' He is alienated. He does not want God, and if I went down into the slums, where the devoted men of the London City Mission go, and I find poor men and women there in the cesspool of sin and vice and offer God to them, I would find that they do not want Him either. They run away from Him. Immediately sin came in in Genesis 3 Adam and his wife were not prepared to have intercourse with God as they had before, they ran away and hid behind the trees of the garden, they were frightened because they were alienated, an awful breach had come in in their thoughts between themselves and God. We were all like that in our unconverted days. It is not only when we get to heaven that we Christians find our joy in God and in our Lord Jesus and in His things, it is now. We are brought to God, our whole outlook is changed. If you turn to the Saviour that is what you will find, your whole outlook will be altered.
I know a man in London who, thirty years ago, was described in the evening papers as 'one of the four greatest bridge players in the world', he had been selected to play the great Americans in 1932. He was rich and lived in Monte Carlo. He did a bit of gambling, but he was more often playing cards. What a change occurred in him when he was converted! I hope to see him next Lord's day at another meeting in London, the converted card player. He has found other things, his whole outlook has changed, he has been brought to God, the card playing and the rest of it has left him, he is reconciled. These are real things, we are not theorising, these are not airy-fairy notions, and we want every one of you to experience them for him or herself, being brought to God and reconciled, finding your joy in Him and the old loves and fascinations gone.
3. Freedom From Sin
"For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom.6:20-23)
This brings me to the third quotation. He reminds them of their past, they were the servants, or slaves, of sin, they were not under the domination of righteousness, they were not being ruled by righteousness, which is the will of God, they were being ruled by sin. Some say, 'Oh, I do not think that I am, I will admit it in the case of the drunkard, but not me'. There are plenty of things other than drink that men fall under the enslaving power of. We can see it in the case of alcohol, but when it is a case of our demeanour and our temper, anger, words, lusts and passions, these are not so public, it is not so clear, but it is there all the same, we are all naturally enslaved by sin.
Sin enslaves. When I have talked to boys and girls before on this I have said, 'Did you ever, on a hot day in the summer time, see hanging in the kitchen a strip of sticky tape.' What was it for? It was to catch flies. Imagine an old fly talking to a young fly, it would say, 'Whatever you do do not touch that sticky tape. It looks and smells nice, it is most alluring, but do not touch it'. The little fly will not be persuaded and thought it must have a touch and so puts out a leg but it gets stuck. It puts out some more legs to push itself off but they stick also, and if you come back in half an hour you would find the little fly just about dead, it is sticky all over. The fly cannot touch the tape without getting ensnared by it. That is like sin. Sin is the sticky thing. Am I talking my own notions? I will tell you what our Saviour said, 'Verily, verily, [or, 'Truly, truly'] I say unto you, Whosoever commits sin is the slave of sin" (John 8:34). Whoever touches the sticky thing called sin is caught and enslaved by it. 'Well,' says Paul, 'you were enslaved by sin, but now you have been made free, not from the presence of sin, but the power of sin. Slavery is broken'. We Christians know it, and it is a wonderful thing.
The Judgment Refusing the Gospel Brings in the Future
I long that every one of you might know this for it is a very real thing, what the gospel does for the one who believes it now. It will put you in right relations with God so that you are justified, it will bring you to know God, to love and adore Him so that instead of being afraid of God and trying to get away you find your joy in Him known, as He will be to you, in the Lord Jesus. You will be reconciled. Thirdly, the power of sin, the slavery of sin will be broken. You will not be perfect, you will not be free from the possibility of taking a tumble or a fall in this connection, but you will no longer be dominated and enslaved by the old lusts and passions of sin. All that may be yours now. Then there is the future. I am not going to decry it, you are not going to live forever in this world. As I look back over my years how they slipped away, how brief life is, life passes swiftly and now I am old. Then we enter eternity.
I am going to close by reminding you of Romans 5:8. "God commends His love towards us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us", and as a consequence of that we are now justified, made right, by His blood, but then, that having taken place, "we shall be (that is future) saved from wrath through Him" (v.9). Yes, I should be criminal if I hid from you, my friends here tonight, that the hour is coming when the wrath of God is going to be poured on sin, that is the future, that is why we speak about "the sweet by and by" because there is a very awful "by and by". If men and women, boys and girls, are not cleared from the guilt of their sins they will have to face the wrath of God. They will have to stand before the judgment seat, they will have to face the penalty, they will then be in a condition when no change is possible. The verse which comes in the last chapter of the Bible will be true in their case, beyond the grace, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still" (Rev.22:11). They will say, 'Cannot we change it now?' No. This world is the moment for change.
I hear people sometimes say, 'Oh, what a world of change this is.' And I say, 'Thank God it is because if it was not there would be no salvation for me or for you if it was impossible for grace to come in and mightily change our lives'. When we step out of this world into what for many is the unknown, the hour of change is over. As the tree falls (if I may adopt an Old Testament figure) so it is going to lie (Ecl.11:3). If you fall wrongly, if you die out of Christ, unreconciled in your heart, with enmity against God you will have to face the wrath of God. I say that with sorrow in my heart, but I know it is true. I should be very wrong if I hid it from you, if I tried to make you believe that it does not matter, for after all it does matter. We want every one of you to be in right relations to God, we want you to be able to say, 'I have trusted in the Saviour, I have committed my life to Him, I am under His authority now as my Lord as well as my Saviour, and I am justified and reconciled, and emancipated from the old life of slavery to sin, and when the wrath of God does burst in upon this world, which is richly deserving of it, I should be saved from it'. These things are not going to go on forever, the world is piling up the awful story of its iniquity and sin, and a moment is coming when God will intervene.
It was a French scientist nearly a hundred years ago who foresaw the discoveries that have been made in the last quarter of a century, and he said something like this, 'A day will come when men will discover these atomic secrets of the universe and when they do I think God will say, "Gentlemen, it is enough", and then He will step into this world'. This is what he said. I do not quote it as Scripture because it was not, but I cannot help thinking that there is a great deal of truth in it. Men execute wrath upon each other, and do all kinds of evil things, but the moment is coming when God will deal in absolute righteousness which nobody can challenge and when that day comes if you are converted, if you are a Christian, you will be saved from any wrath that will fall upon the earth and upon sinners and that will be through the gracious atoning sacrifice of our blessed Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.
My friends, I have been trying to tell you the things the gospel brings to those who believe it now, and what it will do when the hour of wrath breaks over this world. We beseech you if you have never yet got on your knees in the presence of God and confessed your sinner-ship, your need, and staked your soul upon Christ, the mighty Son of God who stooped to do the work, then do it tonight.
I am told a very good motto than many businessmen have in their offices is very simple 'Do it now'. Tomorrow or next week is not good enough, do it now. Is it important? Then do it now. See that now you get right with God through that which the Lord Jesus has done when He died on the cross, shed His blood and rose from the dead in the power of indestructible life. You may be saved. See to it that in simple faith you take Him as your Saviour and your Master and salvation will be yours.