When we think of conviction of sin, we usually think of strong feeling of guilt or remorse over things we have done. But when the Lord tells us what true conviction of sin is, He says “of sin, because they believe not on me” (John 16:9). The sin of sins is to not trust Christ for salvation. You have experienced Holy Spirit conviction when you see the wickedness of attempting to come into God’s presence any other way than the way of Christ alone.
The call of the sinner
When the Lord came to His disciples on the dark stormy sea he saw them “toiling in rowing”. He saw their fear and futility against an angry sea and a contrary wind. They needed to be saved!
He came there on purpose to save; but He made like He would pass by. Is this not the case of every sinner the Lord saves? He makes like He will pass them by then listens close for their call. It is exactly this experience that causes us to call on Him. One thing I know by experience is that no true sinner will ever let Him pass by. He will cry, plead, and fight his way through the press but he must and will reach the Savior. His call is not a call of discussion or option but of desperation. It is now or never – life or death – Heaven or Hell. He is done with the oars, done with the storm, and done with the darkness.
In the midst of it all he sees the Lord and while he is able to see he calls.
many kinds of sinners
All men confess, at least to some degree, that they are sinners. But I have found there are many kinds of sinners.
There are reformed sinners, or as one preacher put it, “ex-sinners.” These are folks who will confess to some very serious sins in their past, but their testimony is that they have overcome them. They used to drink, do drugs, cheat, covet, steal, curse, etc.
There are theological sinners. These folk hold tenaciously to the doctrine of total depravity. With loud testimony they declare themselves to be worthless sinners. Strangely, though, they do not seem to have any shame over their sinfulness, but even take some pride in the fact that they acknowledge their sin.
There are legal sinners. These folks know their sin by virtue of the law, both as written on stone and on the heart. They lament their sin, and wish they could be rid of it. Since they see their sin as a violation of a commandment, the only remedy they can see is to begin keeping the commandments. For all their knowledge of sin, they fail to grasp the one essential piece of knowledge about our sin: there is nothing we can do to put it away.
It would be useless for us to search our hearts to determine what kind of sinner we are. The truth is we will find elements of each of these sinners in us to this very day. There is only one way to know if we have come to a knowledge of sin that leads to salvation: has our knowledge of our sin prompted us to plead to God for mercy. “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” is the cry of every Holy Spirit taught sinner. No amount of guilty burdens, moral reformations or theological confessions can take the place of a sinner’s cry for mercy.
The Final Judgment Will Strip Us
Judgment is a stripping process in which the outward form is removed to reveal the inward reality. In the judgment, many are stripped of their fair appearance in the flesh in order that the wretched, shriveled, rebellious inner man of the spirit might be seen for what it is. In their lives, they had spent a great deal of effort beautifying the flesh in order to hide the ugliness of the spirit; but judgment shall make the reality known.
In the similar way, there are many who are possessed of a beautiful inner man, a regenerated spirit that is like its Creator, the Lord Jesus. But, for all their lives here, that nature has been hindered, suppressed and frustrated by an ugly flesh that will not cooperate. But judgment shall remove that wretched flesh, and reveal the beauty of the work of God in the inner man, as it is written, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” (Romans 8:19)
Judgment will not change anyone: it will merely reveal what they are. Are you ready to be revealed?
Why Wont He Encourage Fellowship With Us?
I have received encouraging emails from members of various churches here in New Jersey and nearby. I have heard many comments on how their hearts were filled with joy at hearing that Christ crucified and risen is now reigning. On more than one occasion the comment has been made that they do not understand why their pastor seems uncomfortable to encourage fellowship with us. The reluctance may have to do with what we really believe concerning Christ Jesus the Lord.
I really believe that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to all who believe. I really believe that Christ is All; all the believer’s righteousness, all the believer’s sanctification and that Christ is the One who keeps his people separated from the evil of self-righteousness, self-sanctification, self-justification, and all other lusts of the flesh. Paul asked the Galatians, “Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”
I really believe that when God writes his law on the heart that we behold the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure in our Savior in whom we are made holy, unblameable, and unreproveable in God’s sight. I really believe that God is able to give the believer a true understanding that the letter of the law killeth – convinces me that all I am and all I will ever be in my flesh is a sinner. I am convinced that the law of God written on our hearts declares that in Christ the believer has fully established God’s law and Christ in the believer means newness of spiritual life, of spiritual worship, of spiritual communion. We look no longer at this flesh: at touch not, taste not, handle not but we follow Christ. I really believe that in Christ every obstacle is removed which once blocked our entrance into God’s presence and now we can fellowship with our God.
Some have asked how, then, do you discipline or govern the church? I really believe that the government of God’s church is on his Son’s shoulder. I really believe that my living Redeemer is the Counselor who directs his people in the heart. I really believe that King Jesus is working in the midst of his church, in the hearts of his saints, and is able both to will and to do his good pleasure because all power is his in heaven and in earth.
Therefore, when I preach the law I do so to declare all flesh is grass. I do not use the law to unlawfully bolster the pride of sinners which already need no help looking away from Christ to the strength of their own hand. I do not use the law to keep believers in the church, or to motivate them to serve him as their rule of life. I preach every word of God with one purpose: endeavoring to set sinners squarely at the feet of Christ, who through his gospel causes us to look out of ourselves, away from this world, to him. I really believe that the gospel of Christ’s faithfulness, of his love for God and his people, of his righteousness in declaring God just and the Justifier of the believer is the word I am sent to declare. I really believe that through the gospel God makes Christ Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption unto his people. I really believe that the gospel of Christ is the message through which Christ makes himself altogether lovely in the heart. In doing so, I really believe he is able to constrain us by his love. I once thought otherwise. But thanks to God he saved me out of those things which I now renounce as dung.
If you rejoice in the message of our Redeemer, find a place where Christ is declared. You will find a place where you are no longer taught to look to your obedience, where you no longer feel the need to compare yourself with brethren, where you no longer have to worry about what the preacher thinks of you, but you can delight yourself in Christ our Rest. There is great peace in knowing the love of Christ and the love of his brethren. True love does not uncover the brethren’s sin, but covers you in love–that is what true Love did. May the Lord bless you.
Deliverance For the Wretched
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 7:24-25)
Paul answers his own question, and what a question! One all believers have asked themselves time and again. This is precisely the mourning our Lord spoke of when He said in Matthew 5:4. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Paul is mourning his own wretchedness, and he is comforted in the realization that through Jesus Christ our Lord, he is and shall be delivered.
This is what David prophesied of in Psalm 102:19 For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth; 20 To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death. Paul is the groaning prisoner here, bound and held captive by his sinful flesh, appointed to the body of this death, and the Lord Jesus hears such from on high and has compassion. He provides Paul with the answer to his groan, which answer, He Himself is.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the answer to every question worth asking. Philosophers and so-called wise men have always asked questions like the following:
What is the origin of man? The answer? The Lord Jesus Christ. John 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
What is the end of man? The answer? The Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
What is the purpose of man? The answer? The Lord Jesus Christ. Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
What is the hope of man? This is essentially what Paul asked in our text. The answer? The Lord Jesus Christ. Paul thanks God that through our Lord Jesus Christ, there is deliverance from the body of this death, deliverance for the soul.
God cannot (will not) save a sinner except through Christ. There is no righteousness for the sinner apart from Christ. There is no payment for sin, no sin-offering God will accept but Christ. Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. There is no other hope of deliverance, but thank God, we need no other. “It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me.”