Calvary Road Baptist Church

“GOD’S GRACE MINISTERED TO THOSE OBEYING CHRIST’S COMMAND THAT SINNERS STRIVE TO ENTER IN AT THE STRAIT GATE”

Luke 13.24

PART NINE

When Adam sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, in Adam all mankind fell into the darkness of spiritual depravity. The result of the Fall included estrangement from God that can be illustrated by two of the subsequent events recorded in the book of Genesis. First, showing Adam and Eve’s complete withdrawal from any consideration of or interest in communion with God because of their now sinful nature, “they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” in a vain attempt to clothe themselves in some semblance of self-righteousness, Genesis 3.7. Of course, what they actually needed was the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ that can only be appropriated by faith. Additionally, when God called to Adam and asked him where he was, Adam said, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Adam’s admission of fear, Adam’s awareness of their nakedness, and acknowledging that they had hidden from God speaks volumes about the immediate effects of sin on their now sinful nature. Thus, Adam and Eve’s sinfulness shows them completely withdrawing from anything like a relationship with their Creator. On God’s part, Adam and Eve’s sinfulness demanded from God a response consistent with His holiness, His righteousness, and His justice. What God immediately did after clothing Adam and Eve in animal skins (perhaps suggesting their need of being spiritually clothed in another’s righteousness) was to drive them out the Garden of Eden and bar them from ever reentering. Since then, individual sinners are now born estranged from God, and each sinner not only commits personal acts of sin that further that estrangement (just as Adam and Eve did after they ate the forbidden fruit), but God also withdraws Himself from sinners because their nature and conduct is so profoundly offensive to Him. What God has provided for with respect to His eventual response to mankind’s sinfulness is twofold: On one hand, God decreed that the physical death brought on by each individual’s sins would lead to eternal torment, endless punishment for the crimes committed against Him by rebellion and lawbreaking. On the other hand, however, He also decreed that His love, His mercy, His holiness, His righteousness, and His graciousness would be displayed by an unfolding drama of redemption that He conceived and orchestrates, whereby His Son saves some sinners by grace and through faith.[1]

You are quite familiar with the outworking of God’s grand design, predicted by the prophets, and then brought to pass by the incarnation, the sinless life, the substitutionary death, the victorious resurrection, and the glorious ascension of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is all so straightforward, in principle. The gospel is declared to a sinner, the Spirit illuminates and convicts the sinner, the elect among sinners is persuaded, whereupon he embraces the Savior by faith, the miracle of the new birth is wrought in him, and a new creature in Christ is born again. The sweet simplicity of the transaction that takes place between the undeserving sinner and the gracious Savior is so straightforward that even sincere Christians are sometimes blinded and bewildered by the complicated and confusing disruption of what in principle is so straightforward. Nothing about God’s plan and program is all that complicated. What is complicating, however, is the deceitfulness and dishonesty that is employed by so many sinners in their dealings with gospel ministers and with sincere Christians. Instead of coming to Christ, they frequently pretend to come to Christ. Instead of believing on His name, they frequently convince themselves they have believed on His name when they have not. Instead of turning from their sins and embracing Christ, they pretend to turn from their sins, secretly clinging to their sins, and fleeing for safety to a false Christ and not the real Savior, or to some comforting doctrinal truth rather than seeking the communion that is found only when Jesus Himself is sought. When their ongoing lost condition is exposed for others to see, they frequently resort to a blame game and responsibility shifting tactics to exonerate themselves for rejecting Christ. Thus, the frequent complications encountered in our evangelism are due entirely to the sinner’s depraved introduction of sinful devices and schemes that cloud the picture and cause both the saved and the lost to lose focus, to become distracted, and sometimes to become discouraged enough to quit trying to reach the lost or to quit striving to enter the strait gate.

We have already reviewed the damage that is done to the church congregation, to Christians as individuals, and to unsaved people when someone who is exposed to gospel truth does not embrace the Savior. As well, we saw that refusing Christ takes on a number of guises, from refusing to allow anyone to witness to you, to sitting in church without paying any attention to God’s Word being preached, to refusing to attend church any longer after having heard the gospel, and even to embracing a false hope as one who pretends or thinks he has trusted Christ when in fact that profession of faith is not a reflection of spiritual reality. With each of these guises the Spirit of God is grieved, God the Father is dishonored, and the Lord Jesus Christ is misrepresented, because a lost person does not respond to the gospel of God’s grace, in addition to other people being sinned against. However, the question that should be considered is if that is all the damage that is done?

 There is also the cost of damage done to oneself by a sinner’s disobedience to God’s command that he repent of his sins and believe on Jesus.

 Have you ever wondered what a lost person inflicts upon himself when he contemplates the opinions of other people rather than the opinion of God concerning the salvation of his soul? What is the result of fearing men rather than fearing God? What happens when the Savior is refused? What happens when the sinner has concluded that he is not better off saved than lost, if he in effect does not hold that God is true and everyone else is a liar, but accounts God to be the liar and the wicked to be true? If Newton’s Third Law of Motion holds that for every action, there will be an equal and opposite reaction, should it surprise anyone that there is a very similar corresponding spiritual law? We have labeled it the law of sowing and reaping, and it is found in principle in several places in God’s Word. We are most familiar with the law of sowing and reaping as it is set forth in Galatians 6.7-8:

7      Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8      For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

It has been my observation that the law of sowing and reaping is most frequently construed to be a curse, though it is no curse at all. It is, in fact, a promise, a law, a spiritual principle in God’s creation. What goes around comes around. It is a declaration of consequences. There will always be consequences. Could you possibly think, then, that there would be no corresponding consequences for ignoring Christ, for rejecting God’s demand, for sinning against God with impunity? Much of your parenting, Christian, must include this principle in your child’s curriculum. A great deal of your conversations with your lost friends, Christian, must include comments about and references to this principle at work in the lives of every creature in God’s universe. Therefore, do not allow any lost person to deceive herself that there will be no consequences conceived for rejecting Christ with respect to her mind, or her conscience, or her heart, or her eternal and undying soul.

Reflect with me on the consequences of refusing to hear the gospel, rejecting the demand of the gospel, or only pretending to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. We know that the mind, the conscience, the heart, and the soul are identified in the Bible with the immaterial part of each person. These aspects of your identity are not physical, though the physical side of you affects each. As well, we admit that the soul is more clearly identified as that part of you referred to when you are pondering yourself. This said, though I am in no position to know exactly where the line is to be drawn that separates the mind from the heart, the conscience from the soul, etc., there are identifiable consequences affecting these different immaterial parts of each sinner who says no to God’s offer of His Son Jesus Christ through the gospel.

First, there are the consequences affecting the mind.

We know from First Samuel 2.35 that God has a heart and mind, establishing that the mind and the heart are not merely the organs known as the brain and the four-chambered blood pump in our chests, but are attributes in each of us that correspond to attributes found in the nature of God, whose image we bear. Though your mind is not the only place you process information, establish opinions, and arrive at conclusions, it is the primary place where such activities take place. If our minds are anything at all like God’s mind, then it is no surprise that our minds become alienated from those toward whom we hold animosity.[2] We also know that one’s mind can change, as well as harden with pride.[3] In the New Testament, we see that one can have a right mind, a doubtful mind, a ready mind, a humble mind, and even a reprobate mind.[4] You can also have a carnal mind (a mind which is oriented toward and dominated by that which is physical and sinful), and a renewed mind (a mind that is being reoriented toward and increasingly aligned with that which pleases God and is spiritual).[5] Additionally, you can know the mind of the Lord and have the mind of Christ, you can possess a willing mind, a vain mind, and a mind focused on earthly things.

Imagine a spectrum that features a mind that is hard from pride, reprobate from God’s judgment, vainly focused on the fleshly and sinful, and alienated from God at one end, while at the other extreme is a mind that is right, humble, willing, and in agreement with God. What do you think happens in the mind of someone who refuses an offer to hear the gospel, who rejects an opportunity to turn from sin to Christ, and who feigns a faith in Christ that is not real? Do you really think such a person’s mind is static, that it remains in its present condition despite new experiences and responses? Not only is nothing static in the physical realm, but the same is true in the spiritual realm, as well. What it is exposed to, the light that enters in or is blocked from entering in, and the decisions that are made concerning the truths or errors that you fix your attention on constantly affect your mind. In Second Corinthians 10.4-5, the Apostle Paul refers to strongholds of the mind, imaginations of the mind, and thoughts that obviously occur in the mind. Each of these characterizations is a picture of something occurring in the mind that relates to either one’s obedience or disobedience to Christ.

If you will be honest with the facts that are presented in God’s Word, you are forced to the conclusion that every time your loved one decides against yielding to God, against coming to Christ, against submitting to the Spirit of God, she moves ever closer to the wrong end of that spectrum of the mind’s description as being vain, hard, reprobate, and alienated from God. Such a mind is obviously going to be focused on selfish pursuits, foolish endeavors, and a more dulled capacity to discern truth from error. If the mature believer is more discerning of good and evil than one who is spiritually immature, Hebrews 5.14, can you imagine the disadvantage of being one dead in trespasses and sins, whose mind is darkened? If the believer’s mind is being renewed so that she can prove what is that good, acceptable and perfect will of God, Romans 12.2, what kind of slide into darkness must then be taking place with the mind of the rebellious and Christ denying? Face the reality, Christian, of what is happening to the mind of that family member, that loved one, that friend, or that spouse who continues to reject the salvation which can be found only in Jesus Christ. There is a steep price you must pay in your mind for refusing Christ.

Second, there are the consequences affecting the conscience.

My guess is that it has been centuries since Christians have written serious books about the human conscience. Though I have not read it, John MacArthur, did write a book titled “The Vanishing Conscience” about fifteen years ago, which appears from its table of contents to be worth the time to read. That few or no books have been written on the subject of conscience should indicate to us what the state of the matter is in our culture. Conscience is that inner compass that every person has that points us, much as a compass points to the north, to what is right and alerts us when we have done wrong. Understand that conscience is not infallible, by any means, and can be seriously misaligned in anyone. For example: Muslims can feel guilty in their consciences when they do not do things that the Bible declares to be quite wrong, showing a seriously compromised conscience. I have seen videos of former jihadists who actually felt guilty for not going through with a suicide bombing, illustrating that conscience is imperfect.

That noted, what does the Bible suggest about the conscience? The conscience is capable of feeling good, commending someone who has done what he believes to be good.[6] The conscience is capable of convicting a person whose sin is revealed to him.[7] Romans 2.15 reveals that the conscience can both accuse and excuse someone of wrongdoing. Six times in First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul makes reference to the consciences of weak brethren who are made to feel guilty when persuaded to do something that is not sinful but which violates their consciences.[8] The Apostle Paul frequently wrote about a good consciences and pure consciences.[9] However, he also wrote about consciences that are seared with a hot iron, consciences that are evil; and consciences that are defiled.[10] What happens when a conscience is seared, when a conscience is evil, and when a conscience is defiled? It stops working correctly. It ceases to function as a moral compass to guide someone concerning what is right and wrong.

Admittedly, the conscience is not an infallible guide for matters of right and wrong, but one’s conscience can be very useful. Though the weak brethren in Corinth were easily convicted by their immature and relatively inexperienced consciences concerning what was right and wrong, Paul advised great caution so none who were more mature would in any event lead such a believer to violate his conscience. Why so? To violate a weaker brother’s conscience is to sin against him, and also to sin against Christ, First Corinthians 8.12. What happens, then, when a sinner violates his own conscience by doing that which he knows he should not do, by saying that which is knows to be untrue, by refusing what he knows is right to accept, and by rejecting the One he knows he ought to embrace? This is lying and unbelief. To lie results in a conscience that is seared, First Timothy 4.2. To disbelieve results in the conscience being defiled, Titus 1.15, and being evil, Hebrews 10.22. However, is this not precisely what a sinner does when he refuses the gospel, when he rejects the Savior? God says that you must believe, while the sinner says that is not true. The Bible declares that faith in Christ is good, while the Christ-rejecter’s behavior declares that faith in Christ is bad. Think there are no consequences associated with such unbelief? Think again. First John 2.22 declares, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” Neutrality is a myth. Anyone who is lost is, by his lifestyle if not also by his mouth, denying both the Father and the Son.

What are some of the consequences for the conscience caused by refusing Christ? A convicted conscience, an accusing conscience, leading to a seared conscience, an evil conscience, and a defiled conscience, that has effectively been knocked out of commission. William Ames, a seventeenth century Puritan who wrote “Conscience With The Power And Cases Thereof” in 1639, explains the conscience by pointing out that the conscience of every man works by means of a syllogism, with a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion.[11] An example would be, God punishes sin (major premise), I am a sinner (minor premise), and therefore God will punish me (conclusion). The sinner avoids having to face the unpleasant conclusion of his conscience by denying either the major or minor premise, God does not punish sin, I am not a sinner. There are variations, but you get the point. The important thing to remember is that denying Christ and rejecting the gospel gradually, but ever so effectively, removes that inner compass called a conscience from being a factor in your life. Do you not think such a damaged conscience will not have serious repercussions in someone’s life related to the treatment of her spouse, the raising of her children, as well as her own sensitivity to God and the things of God? Think again.

Third, there are the consequences affecting the heart.

The heart is the seat of the will. In Romans 3.10, Paul writes, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” Thus, the heart is also that faculty of every man where faith is or is not exercised. So, what happens to a sinner’s heart by his repeated refusals to hear the gospel, his repeated refusals to respond to the gospel, and his repeated rejections of Jesus Christ? As you might imagine, the effects are considerable. Consider the added affect on the heart of rejecting the gospel to what is already the condition of the lost person’s heart, Jeremiah 17.9, and you have a world of trouble: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”

What did God do to Pharaoh’s heart when he disobeyed Him? He said He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, Exodus 7.3. He did harden Pharaoh’s heart, Exodus 9.12. Then He told Moses that He had not only hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but also the hearts of those around him, Exodus 10.1. Do sinners ever consider that God will not only harden their hearts, but also the hearts of their spouses and their children toward the things of God? Not usually, since their hearts are obstinate, their hearts are lifted up with pride, and their hearts are deceived. [12] This greatly contrasts with a heart that is willing, a heart that is filled with wisdom, and a heart that is inclined toward God.[13] I know it is difficult for Christians to move from their theoretical acceptance of the creeds and confessions about the depravity of sinners and the wickedness of the lost to the gritty reality of that truth in the lives of their own loved ones, because we find it extremely difficult to admit that those we once held in our arms, and nursed, and tended to when they were sick, can be so evil. We lose sight of the fact that their behavior is calculated to impress us and to deceive us into thinking they are not what God’s Word declares them to be, the enemies of God. Turn to Psalm 10, where God speaks of the wicked one’s heart life:

 ·         Verse 3: “For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth.”

·         Verse 6: “He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity.”

·         Verse 11: “He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it.”

·         Verse 13: “Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? he hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it.”

 Though there is much more in the 10th Psalm that exposes the wickedness of the lost, I have read only these four verses to show you the heart condition of the lost. In their hearts, they boast and bless those abhorred by the LORD. In their hearts, they are convinced things will turn out well for them in the end. In their hearts, they say to themselves that God has forgotten, that God is not looking, and that God will not see what they have done and thought. Ultimately, they are convinced, God will not hold them accountable, which is the reason they actually condemn God. All of this takes place in the sinner’s heart.

Is it any wonder, then, that God would respond to such blasphemous thoughts and actions by so hardening their hearts that gospel rejecters cannot see with their eyes or understand with their hearts, as is repeated from Isaiah’s prophecy in John 12.40? In Romans 1.21, the Apostle Paul informs us that because sinners have some knowledge of God, but choose to glorify Him not as God, and are not thankful to Him for His blessings in their lives, they not only become vain in their imaginations, but their foolish hearts are also darkened. In Ephesians 4.18-19, Paul tells that church that lost people’s understanding is darkened, because they are alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. He also declares that they are past feeling. Notice that word in Ephesians 4.19. It translates a single word found only here in the New Testament. “The verb apalgein signifies, 1. To throw off all sense of shame, and to be utterly devoid of pain, for committing unrighteous acts. 2. To be desperate, having neither hope nor desire of reformation; in a word, to be without remorse, and to be utterly regardless of conduct, character, or final blessedness.”[14] You are reluctant to accept this scriptural description about your lost loved one, are you not? It breaks your heart for your loved one’s heart to be what the Bible says it is. However, how else do you explain your loved one’s lost condition, her refusal to repent of her sins, her stubborn resistance to the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and her callous disregard for her spouse’s lost condition, or her children’s lost condition? Other people are not to be blamed for this. Circumstances are no explanation for this. This is why God’s Word is required to discern this truth, the sword of the Spirit, that which alone discerns “the thoughts and intents of the heart.”[15]

Thus, the person with the nicest and most tender personality, who seems to be so very sensitive and caring, but who steadfastly resists Christ’s gospel claims, has a heart that the writer of Hebrews declared to be in error and to be evil because of its unbelief, Hebrews 3.10 and 12. Is such a person’s heart really and truly hard? Most certainly, because God Himself has hardened such a heart of unbelief as that, as we saw in John 12.40. Thus, when you draw your conclusions about the utter depravity of your lost loved ones, do not consider only the evidence of their condition that you see and hear, but also the evidence of their condition that you read in God’s Word.

Finally, and most importantly, the consequences of gospel refusal affecting your soul.

What is the soul? It is that part of you that is not physical, but which came into existence in Adam when God breathed into his physical but yet not yet alive body the breath of life, Genesis 2.7. We know from several passages in Genesis that the soul feels, that the soul blesses, and the soul can be in anguish. In other parts of the Old Testament, we learn that the soul can long for something, as well as lust after something. Thus, there is some overlap in function and capacity between the soul, the mind, the heart, and the conscience. These can be distinguished without being completely divided. We also know that when physical death takes place the soul departs, since we are informed of such when Rachel died, Genesis 35.18. From Leviticus 4.2, we learn that it is the soul that sins. Beginning in Leviticus 5.2, we frequently see the word soul as being synonymous for a person, such as when we read, “Or if a soul touch any unclean thing.” In Leviticus 17.11, we read of blood making an atonement for the soul, meaning that innocent blood covers the sins of a soul from God’s sight. In Leviticus 26.30, we see indication from God that He possesses a soul, when He declares, “And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.” We know the soul is guilty when sins are committed, and that “the law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul,” Psalm 19.7. In Psalm 22.20, the psalmist writes, “Deliver my soul.” In Psalm 23.3, we are told, “He restoreth my soul.” Is Psalm 26.9, David pleads with the LORD, “Gather not my soul with sinners.” In Psalm 34.22, we read, “The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.” In Psalm 35.3, David asks the LORD, “say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” Then, in Psalm 35.9, we read, “And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation.”

Thus, while the soul of every sinner is culpable, which is to say guilty and responsible for sinning against God, we are delighted to report that a soul can be redeemed, a soul can be restored, and a soul can be saved so as to be joyful and to rejoice in His salvation. We know from Third John 2 that God wants the believer’s soul to prosper, and that Christians are “them that believe to the saving of the soul,” Hebrews 10.39. We also know from the parable of the rich man, in Luke 12.20, that God required the presumptuous rich fool’s soul. So, what happens to the soul of the person who rejects Christ and refuses the gospel? We know the unsaved soul goes to Hell, and eventually to the lake of fire. However, what happens in the here and now to the soul that rejects the gospel and refuses the Savior? Matthew 11.21-24 suggests to us what happens:

 21     Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

22     But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.

23     And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

24     But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

Acknowledging that the parallels are not exact, what we do learn from this passage is that there are differing degrees of guiltiness, depending upon one’s exposure to the light of spiritual truth and the opportunities given by God for a response. Thus, the cities wherein Jesus ministered and worked miracles had so much more light and far greater opportunities to respond with repentance than did Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom. The principle that applies to your unsaved loved one is that with each refusal to hear the gospel, with each rejection of the person of Christ, with each false profession and pretense of Christianity, the guiltiness accumulates to guarantee a more harsh punishment meted out on Judgment Day, as we see in Revelation 20.11-15:

11     And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

12     And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

13     And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

14     And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15     And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Thus, the harm that is self-inflicted by the sinner who resists the gospel of God’s grace is extreme. He damages his mind, his heart, and his conscience, as well as dramatically increasing the guiltiness of his eternal and undying soul, so that instead of his soul being redeemed, healed, blessed, restored and saved, so that his soul will be joyful and rejoice, it will be damned. If only the sinner would turn in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ, whose blood washes away all sins. Then he would be among the redeemed, no longer merely an unsaved relative, but now a brother or sister in Christ. Let us not be blind to the damage inflicted upon others, as well as the damage inflicted upon themselves by those who conjure up reasons to refuse the Savior.




[1] Ephesians 2.8-9

[2] Ezekiel 23.17-18, 22, 38

[3] Habakkuk 1.11; Daniel 5.20

[4] Mark 5.5; Luke 12.29; Acts 20.19; Romans 1.29

[5] Romans 8.7; 12.2

[6] Acts 23.1

[7] John 8.9

[8] 1 Corinthians 8.10, 12; 10.25, 27-29

[9] 1 Timothy 1.5, 19; 3.9; 2 Timothy 1.3; Hebrews 13.18; 1 Peter 3.16, 21;

[10] 1 Timothy 4.2; Titus 1.15; Hebrews 10.22

[11] William Ames, Conscience With The Power And Cases Thereof (University of Franeker, Friesland, 1639)

[12] Deuteronomy 2.30; 8.14; 11.16

[13] Exodus 35.5, 35

[14] Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol VI, (New York: Abingdon Press), page 454.

[15] Hebrews 4.12



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